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The Non-Geek's Guide to Starting an Etsy Shop

For Christmas this year, I made my niece a bunch of play food.  In the crazy days just before Christmas, I had a "wonderful, awful idea." (to quote Dr. Seuss).  What if I could continue making play food even after Christmas?  So, I opened an Etsy shop!  Without any research, planning, or weighing of my options, I dove in.

I did try to do a bit of research as I went along, but I was disappointed about what I found.  I didn't want to read articles (and join the membership program/ take the class) of people who claimed to make thousands their first month.  I didn't want to read stories from people who had been doing it for years.  I just wanted to know what I needed to do first, to get my immediate questions answered, and to have someone say, "Ya got this."

My shop has only been open about three weeks (two at the time of this writing), so this will not be a definitive article on how to do everything absolutely right.  This is just the ten things I've learned in the last few weeks, things I wanted to know when I first opened my shop.  It's been a while since I did a "non-geek's guide to technology," but I assure you that's exactly what this article is- a non-experts opinions on how Etsy works.

Gingerbread Bear Cookie

It's probably the question that you already have the answer to, but it's still the place to start.  In my situation, I enjoy making felt play food (and have for many years) and decided that the best way to continue feeding that obsession was by opening an Etsy shop.  What do you like to make?  What hobby can you feed?  Etsy allows you to sell physical products or digital ones, so pretty much anything you create can be sold on their site (with a few exceptions- listed here).

Once you have a product, you need a name for your Etsy shop.  It's important that you pick something that distinguishes you from other shops, while still being clear for your buyers about what you'll be selling.  For example, you don't want to call your shop "Mama's Little Monkeys" if you're selling custom blown glass that's clearly not for children.  Keep your shop name clear and easy to remember.  You can look up other people's shop names on this official list to make sure that you're name isn't too close to anyone else's idea.

For simplicity, I started a new Etsy profile (with a new email address) and registered my shop name under that profile.  You take care of all your shop business in a section on the top right called "Shop Manager."  Clicking on that will bring you to your shop dashboard.  Etsy will have a bunch of stuff for you to set up for them (banking numbers, etc), so set aside some time to get all that done.  Etsy is going to pressure you to set up listings right away, but it's ok to take some time and prepare a few other things first.

One of the Many Treasures from my Shop

Once you know what you're selling and have your shop name claimed, you need to figure out how to ship your products.  Etsy has a contract with the US postal service to ship the boxes for a lower rate than just taking them to your post office.  In order to make good use of the shipping program, you'll need to buy a digital kitchen scale for weighing your packages.  Yes, you must weigh them correctly!

For my products, I chose two basic shipping containers, which I'm hoping to use to mail the majority of my listings.  I ordered one size of corrugated shipping boxes and one size of padded shipping envelopes from Amazon.  Etsy will also allow you to purchase your shipping labels from them for each order, so I also bought some sticker paper labels for printing.  Get those supplies ordered, so they'll be in your home by the time you get your first sale.

Besides the packing materials I listed in the last section, what else do you need to purchase right away?  I recommend that you buy enough supplies to make a good selection of your product.  Etsy recommends that you start with TEN items in your store, so you'll need supplies to make at least that many unique products.  I'm still not there, but I'm getting there slowly.  If I had planned on starting a store instead of impulsively opening a shop, I might have had some inventory all ready to go instead of beginning from ten steps behind.  Between the shipping supplies and the craft supplies, your start up costs will probably be significant, especially for a family at Christmas time (oops).

A logo is the tiny picture that people will come to associate with your store.  Like the check mark for Nike or the Smile for Amazon.  You want your logo to be simple, look good in multiple sizes and shapes (square or round), and be unique.  At this time, I don't have a logo figured out and am just using the picture that I placed below.  Eventually, I'll probably buy a logo from a place like Fivvr.  You'll need something for your shop and social media, so either pay someone to make one for you or do like I did.

My Shop's Logo

Nearly right away, you're going to need some way to take picture of the things you're trying to sell.  I use my cell phone camera, but I may end up investing in a better device in the future.  One thing that has really helped my pictures, especially in the deep winter, has been a ring light.  The kids are getting very good at holding the light for me, running the settings, and assisting with layouts.  I love that this shop can be a family project.

For backgrounds, most people recommend a plain white foam board.  I think that looks uninteresting with the play food, so I've been using the boards I made for my blog.  They are 12x12 foam boards with scrapbook paper on them (attached with a glue stick).  The biggest disadvantage with the scrapbook paper is that it isn't a bit waterproof, so it shows water spots and dirt very easily.  I have invested in some contact paper for the future listings, which should eliminate many of my issues.

You will probably also need a light box for taking pictures, especially if you live in a dark house and a dark part of the world like I do.  The light box allows you to take crisp, well-lit pictures no matter what time of the day you're working on your shop.

You'll need to crop your images to a square for Etsy.  I recommend putting your shop name or logo on your images, which can be done in a program like Canva or Photoshop.  I have also been making "Pinterest worthy" images for all my products (such as the ones I've put in this post).  Pinterest will take the square images, but it prefers rectangular ones.  After you've listed your products, post the longer images to Pinterest and link the listing to the image.

After you have all these other things set up, I feel like you're ready to officially open your shop by putting some listings in your virtual warehouse.  Your listings are located in the Shop Manager section at the top right of your Etsy home screen.  Open up the SM and go to the listings section to get started.  Click, "add listing."

I watched a Youtube video that recommended trickling your products into your shop one a day or so to give you a better chance of being seen by the Etsy search engine.  I don't know if it's an accurate statement, but that's basically what I ended up doing.  I haven't had enough unique felt food items to post one a day, so I can't really test her theory.  I only do one listing a day, though.  Etsy lets you save your listings as drafts, which is a good way to batch your work and still wait to release them all to Etsy.

You'll need to know your finished package weight in order to post the product listing, so that's where your packing materials and digital kitchen scale are important.  You'll also need to price your items, write out a description of your product, tag it with appropriate search phrases (hint- use the search bar on Etsy to come up with ideas), and do several other things.  Just put on a movie and start working through it.  My first listing took a while, but the ones after that have been much easier.

Etsy allows you to put variations of one product in the same listing (for example, color or size).  At least in the beginning, I recommend that you put those variations as separate listings.  Yes, this does sort of pad your shop, but I think that's ok in the beginning when you're just trying to get items on your shelves.  Once you have lots of listings, you'll probably want to go back and redo those older listings anyways to make them more concise or give them better pictures.

Gingerbread Cookie for Play or Decoration

If you haven't thought about this already, it's time to open up some new social media accounts.  Using your shop name, your logo, and your product images, begin posting to Instagram (follow my store).  Grow your following of people who may be interested in your product by commenting on their pictures and following hashtags related to your store.

You might also want to open a Facebook business page for your store.  It's just another way to connect with customers and post your products.  You can even join FB groups as your page (although be warned that it will blow up your business page notifications in a most annoying way).

Oh, and of course, you should have a Pinterest account as well.  I'm not sure that you need an entirely new Pinterest account for your shop.  I just tacked mine onto the account I have for this blog (follow my blog on Pinterest) since I already had a few felt food and pretend play boards in the account.  You'll probably need to decide for yourself if your current Pinterest business account will work for you or if you'll need to start afresh.

I don't know!  Opening an Etsy shop and having a successful Etsy shop are two different things.  Haha!  The most important thing to focus on is marketing yourself and your new store.  Post to your social media channels frequently, join in Facebook group discussions, and have conversations in real life showcasing your products.  If you want more information than those few tips, you're going to have to take a class or watch some videos yourself.

The Berry Pie that Started It All

As I've been learning more about Etsy and selling online, I've come to realize that I will probably be needing to start an off-Etsy website in the future.  Purchasing your own domain is a great first step.  You can even set up the custom domain to redirect to your Etsy shop to help customers get in the habit of typing in your URL instead of Etsy's.

As well as a website, sellers should also think about other places to sell their wares.  Are craft fairs an option?  Farmers' Markets?  Facebook Business page?  Instagram?  Flee Market?  Etc.  Etsy can be only the beginning or it could be a stepping stone for figuring out what works for you, your lifestyle, and your products.

Now, after all that introduction, why don't you visit my shop?  Just click on the picture to check out what I have in my store at the moment.  PM me to talk about custom orders or product ideas.

Visit My Shop

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