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7 Steps to a Successful Start on Etsy

Starting a new business on Etsy can feel overwhelming. Find out how to make the process more manageable (and fun!) by following a few simple tips.

Avatar image for Lauren Weisenthal by Lauren Weisenthal
Title image for the article

With new concepts, strategies and terminology to learn, starting your first online business can feel like a maiden voyage into a foreign country. To prepare for your first few months selling on Etsy, it can pay to plan ahead and get a sense of how things work before you hit the ground running. If you’re new to selling online or dream of starting your own Etsy shop someday, let these seven steps be your guide.

1. Gather Essentials

Assembling the key building blocks for your new business ahead of time makes the process of opening your shop easy, quick and stress-free. Download the Quick Start Checklist to begin preparing everything you’ll need, including photos, item prices and your bank’s routing number.

2. Choose a Name

New sellers often stumble at the very first step of the shop opening process: selecting a name. While it can be crushing when the shop name that you’ve set your heart on is not available, don’t let it stop you from creating your shop. If you’re in this boat, try adding the word “shop” or “boutique,” your location or even your initials to the end of your desired name. And remember, this isn’t your only shot at picking the perfect name. You can change your name as often as you like before you open your shop by going to Your Shop > Shop Name. After you’ve opened your shop, you can change the shop name one time (here’s how).

3. Set Specific and Attainable Goals

If you have big plans for your shop, you’re not alone. Last year, Christina Lembo started her Etsy shop, Franny & Franky Designs, in Saint Petersburg, Florida with hopes of someday growing it into a wholesale business. “I live in a fantasy world where I want to do everything,” Christina says, thinking back to her initial to-do list. “In the actual world, I don't have time to do anything!”

To avoid burnout, Christina decided it was time to embrace a different strategy for getting her shop, which sells wedding decor and art prints, off the ground. Rather than creating task lists based on her long-term goal, Christina identified small milestones that would lead her there in a manageable, sane way. She made it her starter milestone to make her first sale within three months. With a clear focus on reaching this smaller objective, her task list became much more manageable. She made it her mission to design, print, photograph and list a minimum of two new items each week. “It really kept me on track and put me in the habit of taking small steps toward larger goals,” she says. She met her initial goal and has made more than 480 sales since then. For more advice on setting wise goals, read the article, Ready for Etsy Success? Start With an Etsy Goal on the Seller Handbook blog.

Getting started on Etsy tips
Christina Lembo avoided burnout by setting small goals for her art prints shop, Franny & Franky Designs.

4. Consider Keywords

When folks shop on Etsy with specific products in mind, they usually begin their search by typing  words and phrases into the search bar. As a seller, it’s essential to think like a customer to determine which of these descriptive keywords your prospective customers will most likely use to find your items.

To make the most of keywords, begin by brainstorming words or phrases that customers might use to find your items. Once you have a hefty list of possibilities, circle the strongest ones. Go into the listings editor and, plug those words and phrases into your product tags and item titles and at the beginning of your item descriptions. Once a week, check your Shop Stats (under Your Shop> Stats) to see which keywords are working, and replace those that are not with something that may work better.

5. Take Captivating Product Photos

Most Etsy sellers are not professional photographers by trade. In that case, you’ll most likely have some studying to do. Before opening her online jewelry business from her home base in Brooklyn, New York, Melissa Hile, owner of Prairiefunk, had only ever taken snapshots. “Those first photos were definitely less than wonderful,” says Melissa, who opened her shop in 2012. “But, everyone has to start somewhere.” Taking photos that are sharp, simple and illustrative is key to selling success, and Melissa recommends that new sellers put photography study and practice at the top of their to-do lists. “You don’t need sophisticated equipment,” she says. Learn some basic principles by reading 4 Essential Product Shots for Your Etsy Listings and 5 Common Photography Mistakes. Then, keep experimenting until you find a setting, camera angle and time of day that works best for you.

Tips for starting an Etsy shop
Melissa of Prairiefunk made product photography a priority when she opened her shop.

6. Think Like a Brick-and-Mortar Store

Have you ever walked into a shop that was so well-curated and thoughtfully designed that it made you want to buy everything inside?  Aim to achieve that effect with your target customers as you fill out your shop. Offer a selection of products that look like they belong together. Sell items at a variety of price points to appeal to a variety of shoppers, encourage multiple purchases and attract repeat customers. Even if you make one type of product, consider making and listing it in various colors and different materials. You could also offer a set of products to appeal to gift givers. And finally, when you’re ready to add a banner, make sure it matches your brand and complements your product design.

7. Remember, Done is Better Than Perfect

Perfectionists are always in good company here in the creative Etsy community. But, as seller Alexandra Ferguson explained in her blog post Why Done is Better Than Perfect, sometimes our obsession with having things just so can be a detriment to the educational process of trial and error. When you feel like you’re holding back until something is exactly right, remind yourself that selling is an experimental process, and if you don’t start somewhere, you’ll never get anywhere.

Are you an experienced seller? Share your best tips for new shop owners in the comments.

Stop dreaming and start doing. Start your Etsy shop today.

Avatar image for Lauren Weisenthal Words by Lauren Weisenthal

Lauren Weisenthal is the curriculum specialist for Etsy’s Craft Entrepreneurship program.

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