Should you be using Etsy as an entrepreneur?
Many #femtrepreneurs use Etsy as a launchpad for their brilliant businesses. Etsy has tons of built in traffic, advertises your listings for you, and has a good reputation as an online marketplace. Even though Etsy fame may not be your end goal as a business owner, I can say from experience that utilizing it as a tool when you are first starting out is a great idea. This is my guide for using Etsy as an Entrepreneur.
We’re not talking about selling some old trinkets or your kindergarten pasta necklaces. Many Etsy sellers have used the platform to launch hugely profitable businesses.
4 Reasons entrepreneurs like YOU should be using Etsy to test their BRAND, PRODUCT, and PRICING:
Built In Traffic and Searching Customers:
Etsy has millions of people every day searching for something to buy. You don’t have to spend as much time driving traffic to your site as you would with your own branded domain, because the audience is already there. You just have to capture it.
That being said, not all items will do well on Etsy. As you probably know, Etsy has an aesthetic and a few major “types” of customers. And not all items are allowed on Etsy. But, if your product is a good fit for the marketplace, you can spend more time on your business and less time just trying to let people know about it because the eyes are already there.
With my Etsy business, I focus all of my time and energy on listing new items (photographing, describing, editing, etc) and not much time driving traffic (social media and the like) because the best way to make more sales is to have more items. Etsy makes it easy to get found when you’re just starting to establish your company. And once you’ve grown your fan base on the Etsy marketplace, you can jump from there to your own e-commerce site.
Low Barrier to Entry/Zero Start-Up Cost:
The Internet has a “low barrier to entry” in general, but Etsy makes that especially true for entrepreneurs. With just a $0.20 listing fee to start, it’s practically free to set up your storefront. Once you make a sale Etsy takes 3.5%, but that’s still incredibly affordable considering all the traffic they open you up to, and they actually advertise your listings in Google searches (so if you’re selling a pineapple print prom dress, and someone searches “pineapple prom dress”, Etsy will make sure your listing is up there in those Google rankings).
For less than a few dollars you can have a fully stocked storefront with both digital and physical items. If you’re trying to get your design business off the ground, you can sell digital downloads, Wordpress themes, and special packages (such as a full custom blog branding package). Before I figured out a long-term solution to selling my popular e-course online, I used Etsy to deliver the digital file, accept payments, and register students. I still get a few sign-ups from my Etsy shop for each class, so I keep that listing updated and active.
You can test your Market, Pricing, and Product Branding:
Before putting hours and dollars into a branded website and e-commerce solution for your online shop, why not see how potential customers respond to your Etsy real estate?
If you’ve come up with a brand new product and are trying to see if the prototype grabs the attention of customers, Etsy is a good place to test the market (as is eBay, but this post isn’t about that! Focus, Mariah, focus). You can put your new product up, and see if people buy it at your asking price. If no one bites, adjust the price and re-list, and continually test. Try switching around the thumbnail photo and see if conversions increase.
If you’re new to running your own business, Etsy is a great place to learn the ropes (hey, that’s what I did). You’ll get to do some branding, design, customer service, packaging and logistics (and accounting, and inventory management, and everything else if you’re a solopreneur like me).
I can’t describe how beneficial it is to have that experience in that environment before making the leap to your own stand-alone website or e-commerce shop. I had a chance to work out all the kinks, up my game and improve everything shop-related, and tweak until I figured out what worked. It’s a great way to practice running your own business without a huge upfront investment of money or time.
Keys to Killing It Selling On Etsy
Selling on Etsy may be a great option for entrepreneurs, but it isn’t easy. Depending on your skills you may need to hire help, or DIY this whole deal. Here are the 5 main ingredients for killing it on Etsy.
Have a great Shop
When people get to your shop, you should have a little branded experience for them right there. Your shop banner and logo should be professional, relevant to your products, and eye-catching. Your owner profile picture should be a handsome headshot (you want people to trust you, Etsy is all about the connection to the maker behind the company).
Though you can’t customize much in your Etsy shop, what you can customize should look amazing. Don’t use MS Paint and don’t leave it blank. You have only one chance to make your shop stand out (besides your product listings) and you must make a good impression. You can even hire a fellow Etsy seller to do your Etsy package (banner, logo, avatar, icon, etc)!
Your products should reinforce your brand and your image. Your products should be a collection, cohesive and recognizable. Whether you’re selling all mid-century modern furniture, custom blog design elements and packages, or vintage clothes, everything should be related and have a similar “theme”. For example, you wouldn’t expect to see a sweet, floral rockabilly dress in a vintage shop that branded itself as 90s club-kid fuzzy sweaters and Spice Girls platforms. Pick something and stick to it. You can always expand your brand later and add more product lines and offerings, but for now you have to get recognized. So if you’re selling organic soaps don’t throw in the occasional antique trinket you’re trying to clear out of your house.
It has been repeated many times, but it must be affirmed: YOU MUST HAVE AMAZING PHOTOS. Think about it. In a sea of thumbnails and white backgrounds, your product photo has to stand out. You can only choose one main thumbnail, and it has to be cropped perfectly so that it is the right size for the thumbnail (square) and shows off the best feature of your product.
Good photos consider...
- Silhouette: If you’re selling clothes it’s all about the silhouette. Make sure the body looks good and the shape is flattering. I’ve sold a lot of clothes I thought were odd but if the silhouette looks good people will love it.
- Color: You can stand out with color. But do not use a color background to stand out! White looks 100x more professional and highlights the product.
- Invest in a white paper backdrop ($30 on Amazon) if you’re selling clothes, and a lightbox if you’re selling smaller products (Google “product photography”). Furniture can be photographed in a room against a clean wall.
- Composition: Like I said, make sure your thumbnail looks good cropped. A corner cut off or an awkward composition won’t look right and your customer will scan right over it.
- Light: Natural lighting will give your photos a nice glow and professional look. Don’t you ever use a flash.
Descriptions and Measurements
Don’t skimp on descriptions. It’s a pain in the ass when each item is unique, but you must accurately describe in detail each item that you list. And you must include all measurements for garments! If you just list the item as size SMALL or MEDIUM, you will get a bunch of messages asking for exact measurements, and it will drive you crazy. Go ahead and include all measurements in the description so your inbox doesn’t get out of control with the same question.
Be Shipping Savvy
Shipping can be seem complicated at first, I know. How do you calculate each item? Which package type should you use?
My advice: Make it easy on you even if it’s not the absolute cheapest option for the customer.
Don’t nickel and dime yourself on shipping, just charge what it costs you. Use flat-rate options whenever possible. Over time you’ll be able to tell right away what size and shape an item needs.
Examples: All t-shirts and small items go in the flat rate envelope ($6), all jackets go in the medium flat-rate box ($12), all sunglasses fit in the small flat rate box ($6). You’ll get the hang of it.
In the meantime get a cheap food scale and weigh the items you’re unsure about, and use the USPS shipping calculator. If you’re going to offer International shipping, just list the shipping price as what it costs to get to Australia (or wherever the farthest and thus most expensive place would be for your location) and let buyers know you’ll refund the difference or they can ask for a quote for their country. Print ETSY Shipping labels and don’t write them out by hand. Whew! Got that? You will learn fast when the orders start pouring in! I promise! It'll be second-nature.
There’s so much to the art and craft of selling on Etsy, there’s no way I could cover EVERYTHING here, but I touched on all of the basic necessities. I hope this post helps you launch your business in little time and with little overhead.
The most important thing you can do as an entrepreneur is START - start getting feedback, interacting with customers, and tweaking your brand, product, or prices.
Etsy let’s you get started right now, which is why I like it as a jumping off point.
If you're thinking about starting your own business selling vintage clothing online, read my article about my top tips for getting started selling vintage on Etsy.