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Etsy Guide for Beginners : Part One

Hey team, I wrote this guide for my design blog but I think this will be useful for our team too. The guide will be posted in several parts because they are really long.

PRELUDE

Preparing yourself

First and foremost, to know your way around Etsy, the best is to explore it yourself. And read the official Etsy Handbook (very long and with a lot of links, if you don’t have time to read all now, at least bookmark it for easy reference). Etsy also comes with their own Etsy Wiki for tips and a lot of good links of know-hows, do’s and don’ts. Hang out in their forum and chat rooms. You will meet with a lot of friendly Etsian who is always ready to give you a helping hand. I socialize a lot in the forum and chat room, not only I get sales from there but I met a lot of wonderful friends and learn a lot helpful tricks from them. If you’re a lazy reader, at least, just go through the dos and don’ts.

STEP ONE

Setting up your storefront

1. Choosing your username

Is not the same like choosing your email name, please bear in mind that this will be your shop name and also stated in the url. For example, naming your shop Baby1984 is a bit weird and unprofessional for a serious online shop. Spend your time to think of an appropriate shop name, which you will later use for branding your work, yourself and your shop. The name does not have to be your own name, but if you’re an artist who wants to name your shop after your real name, that is a good idea too. Think of a short and sleek name like FlooFloo (if you’re selling something cute) or Wishful (if you’re selling more sophisticate jewelries or clothing line). Try not to create names with a lot of words joint together like lovelyenchantedfairies or frommetoyouwithlove. Those are not wrong, many use to create name this way but names string together with a lot of words are not really eye-catching and difficult to remember.

2. Fill up your profile and shop policy
I know many of you did not bother to pay attention on this two pages but profile and shop policy pages are equally important as the frontpage. A storefront is not complete without a brief introduction of a person behind the shop. Your potential customers will want to know the person operating the shop, write a brief introduction about yourself, your contact info (email, facebooks, etc), your passion or hobby, just a little something to let your potential customers know that there is a human behind the online shop.

Shop policies is the rules and regulation of your shop. Lay out a few important shipping and return policies to show your potential customer that you have a business plan in place and make you look like a serious seller. No shop should operate without a clear cut shop policy, so spend a few good hours and fill this page up before you start selling.

Oo…and don’t forget to make a nice avatar too. (Avatar is the small picture beside your username)

3. Writing title
Ok, after you choose a nice username and filled up your profile and policy page, it’s time to list some items in your brand new shop. Title of your item should be eye-catching, brief but descriptive, inspires curiosity, but also explains what your product is. Try to avoid short abbreviations (some might just not understand your short words), jargon, and check your spelling. DoN’t TyP3 L1Ke TH1s, very immature. Here’s a few good and bad titles:

Good Title: I’ll be waiting for you in my father’s orchard, under our tree. 5×7 print.

Bad Title: Print of a Girl Under An Apple Tree

4. Writing description
I despise writing description too but this part is most essential part in setting up a customer driven shop. So, brush up your writing skill and describe as if you are describing your item to the blind. That is the thing with online shopping, potential buyers are not able to touch and feel the item so description and pictures are the only thing that can satisfy their curiosity. Photography part will come later in this post, now we focus on description writing first.
Things to be describe :
-Overall and physical condition of the item: color, texture, pattern or style
-Measurement: give the measurement unit in both cm and inches (don’t be a lazybum, measure it!, measurements are very important)
-If you could come up with a little story behind each creation/item, that would be even better, or suggestion how buyer could use them for, how they could decorate them which give a meaning(if not urge) of buying your item. Try to give a life to your creative work. And if you’re selling supplies, give them a purpose for use.
-Other details like material used, method, special care etc. It’s also ok to let your customers know if this is a promotional item, the price before and the price after discount.
-You can also highlight a brief of your shop policy here too
-Description should be around 100 words count and not less than 1 sentence.

-Check spelling, don’t make your description look like you write in a haste.

5. Tagging
If you’re familiar with the world of blogging, you will know about tagging. It will optimize your shop for better search-ability in Etsy search engine. This will directly improve your visibility. Etsy gives a maximum of 14 tags, so use them all and tag accordingly. Think what people might use as a word when they trying to search for something.
-What is your item? Illustration, ATC, print, pattern, bag, purse?
-Colors ? Be specific, maroon, pastel or solid red?
-Synonyms : If the print has a dog in it, try to use a few different word for it, puppy, animal, pup
-Usage? Room, kitchen, children, women?
-Other theme surrounding the item. Valentine, Christmas, friendship?
-Style : Vintage, victorian, gothic, cute, retro?

6. Categories
Like any e-commerce shop, Etsy provides categories. Categorize your shop, cluster them together for easy browsing. Etsy allows up to 10 categories slot so you can categorize them according to :
-Names : necklace, bracelet, hairpins
-Size/measurements : Usually for listing artwork or similar items only difference by size, 4″X4″, 5″X7″
-Prize : On Sale, $5 and below, $5-10, $10-50, $50 and above
-Colors

Keep your items in your shop similar or complimenting each other and not look like department store or a garage sale. If you are selling cute handmade dolls, keep you shop full with dolls of different design or similar work that complimenting each other ‘cuteness’. And if you also wants to sell vintage clothing or vinyl wall stickers design, you should consider opening another shop instead of putting everything in one shop. Cute plushies, vintage clothes and vinyl wall stickers just don’t go well in a bunch.

7. Pictures
Like I said before, #4 description and pictures are the ‘touch and feel’ of your item. You don’t have to spend thousands of dollars for a professional photographer to get your product shoot, you can achieve a really good pictures even with a 3.2mp digital camera. But please, no mobile phone cameras or web cameras. Even if you have a 10mp mobile phone camera, they shoot lousy pictures, trust me. Get a real camera, they are so cheap nowadays. I got mine (10mp Panasonic Lumix) for $100 only. I am sorry to tell you that you have to leave the e-commerce playground if you don’t have a digital camera.

Photography skills are not something you can pick up in a few days but here is some quick tips for a good product pictures.
-Natural lighting. Take pictures on bright day light, beside a big window with strong direct sun light hitting into the room, turn on the florescent light for more bright lighting and take the picture in the bright room.
-Turn on the little flower icon on your camera. This is the macro setting to get sharp close-up pictures of your item. Unless you are selling clothes or bigger size items, then you will not need this.
-Etsy allows you to put maximum 5 pictures, fully utilize the slots and show all angle of your item, top view, side view, show your item being used and put a ruler beside it to indicate the size.
-Background color, please try to avoid using dark background such as black, brown, grey. Those color will not make your item to stand-out and but make it look dull and boring instead. Personally, I love to use white background (and whiten it out even more using Photoshop). You can also use complimenting things or create an appropriate setting for your item but not too over-the-top or bright as it might be too eye catching and overtaking your item’s pride. I always think simple setting is the best.
-You can create your own light box for better lighting control and macro shoot.
-and I repeat again, as this is a important pointer, even if you took a very good professional picture, one is not enough. Put at least 3 pictures.

Check all of the 7 pointers in Step One of this guide. Tedious? Hard? Well, selling on Etsy is difficult and challenging, just as any business out there that you might want to try your hands on. Business is never an easy ordeal. But if you do it the right way, and put in effort and commitment, you will definitely reap what you sow.

Good luck for the start and I will continue writing the guide for
Part Two : Money Matters
Part Three : Marketing and Advertising
Part Four : Packaging

10 Responses

  1. Hi! Good guide! Ever considered posting this in the Etsy forums?
    I only disagree with one thing, though – photo backgrounds. I’ve seen many pics on Etsy look so good and professional on darker backgrounds. I think if it fits the product, the artist’s personality and the whole “feel” of the Etsy shop, one should go ahead with it. I’ve personally takens pics of a pale pink necklace on both light and dark backgrounds, and the darker one works better. Even using a patterned background worked better for me. However, the pictures should be bright and show details clearly.
    p/s: Where the heck did you get a Lumix for $100?? That’s a good bargain!

  2. you’ve put it all in a nutshell! it took me a week of reading up on etsy when i first started my shop to grasp all that info, so this is a great crash course.

    as for backgrounds, this is my experience: when I started, I used a black shelf to take pictures in, and the photos were fine. I did have a sneaky suspicion that etsy favours lighter, brighter pictures tho – if you look at the frontpage, you’ll notice that it is the softer pictures that are often chosen. so i’ve since moved on to shooting (by a bright window yes!) on a white table and light wall background. and i believe i am seeing better results – the same or similar items seem to move faster with the light and clean styling, all other factors remaining.

  3. I’m still reading all these now… if anyone believes me. Hehe. Most of the time to refresh but sometimes, really, being a bad reader, I always only read the important info that I want at that time. So obviously I always miss important info.

    Background wise, I personally am still experimenting with different backgrounds. Oh yes I love natural light but the only window in the house with a good natural light now has NO wall near it. Duh… I know. Resolving with a big piece of paper but sometimes items are just too big.

    Anyway, happy learning everyone! :)

  4. On the title part, I just briefly describe my item and then throw in some keywords that I can’t fit in the 14 tag fields. I know this makes my titles super long and messy but it does help people find my stuff.

  5. Thanks for this article – you simply can’t have enough of such pointers as guidance! For me the toughest challenge has been to take nice photos of my soap. Everytime I look at my shop front on Etsy, I feel a little deflated seeing my photos looking dull and washed out. Must keep working at it.

  6. Thank you so much…. This is really helpful….
    And I have a question about the delivery..
    If i wanna post something to oversea, which delivery company should i use?
    And usually, Malaysia Etsy user using which of the delivery company to post to oversea?
    Does the postage very high?
    I relly have no idea, hope u can give me some advice..
    It will be really helpful and appreciate….
    Thank u very much….

    • Hey Minimind,

      I’m not sure about the others, but I rely on Pos Daftar. I’ve sent packages to the US using them with no problem. Pricing is fairly reasonable – you can visit this page to get their rates: http://www.pos.com.my/V1/main2.asp?c=/v1/PostageRates/PostageMain.htm (page also includes PosLaju rates).

      I have yet to try other courier services as I’m under the (yet-to-be-proven) assumption that they’re more expensive than Pos Daftar. Anyone else?

      • As far as I’m concerned, Pos Malaysia’s is by far the most reasonable rate, as long as it’s normal mail, normal parcel, or registered (Pos Daftar). For Pos Daftar, just top up additional RM3.90.

        All other express services will cost double or triple (eg: DHL, FedEx, or even PosLaju to overseas) if I remember correctly (I have a quotation sheet from them and I remember comparing the prices once…).

        Oh and remember to fill in the green custom form! :)

    • I use Registered Post as well, usually for orders more than USD20. Pos Malaysia should be quite reliable, courier services are way too expensive.

  7. >< Thanks Michelle and Huey so much…
    I really know ntg about the post.. and both of ur ans is really help…
    Thanks again…^^

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