How To Sell On Etsy: The Ultimate Guide

How to sell on etsy

Getting started on Etsy is not as difficult as you may think, but there are some important details that can help you navigate your way to a profitable shop. 

This guide goes through it all, starting with helping you decide on a product/shop experience, then we give screenshots and explain exactly how you can get started, and then we finish with some final recommendations. 

As always, if you need any help creating an Etsy shop, let us know! We would be happy to guide you through everything we explain below. 

So, without further ado, let’s jump in and talk about where to start…

Picking Your Niche

Before we dive into any specifics, you have to make the most important decision of your business journey: deciding what to sell. This is not a decision to take lightly!  We know that this can be daunting, so here are a few steps you can take to help you narrow down some ideas.

  1. Identify your skills and passions

The majority of sellers on Etsy are creators in some way or another. Some are digital artists, others can draw beautiful watercolor paintings to hang on your wall. Some design jewelry, clothing, or accessories.  

The sky’s the limit, but you will find the most success in a niche that you actually enjoy and have some sort of skill in. Why? Because some days will be frustrating and stressful, and in those times you will need something to motivate yourself and stay on track.  

To get a broad understanding of what the market currently looks like, you can see what categories are currently popular on Etsy. 

“Home and Living” is sitting at the top and represents 1 in 4 shop owners! “Arts and Collectibles,” “Jewelry,” and “Clothing” are also very popular shops and each represent more than 10% of the market. 

What does this mean for you? It shows you the competition you are up against, but it also shows you what the millions of customers that come to the site are actually looking for and what they expect to find. If you decide on a “Home and Living” store and you have some great products that are unique, then you will not have any trouble finding enough customers interested in what you have to offer.

  1. Identify problems in your niche that you can solve

The truth is that there are A LOT of products on Etsy. When you are scrolling through you will see hundreds of the exact same product, just from different sellers.  This is not a place that you want to find yourself in when making products.  

The question you have to ask yourself is: “How can I differentiate myself from these sellers? What products are customers looking for that are not being sufficiently offered in the marketplace right now?” This is where experience in the niche helps, because you may already have some idea of what this may be. 

One other thing to keep in mind in this regard: remember that niche does not equal product type. If you decide to sell t-shirts, you will need to identify your market within that niche. Are you selling to brides, Gilmore Girl enthusiasts, or maybe teachers? 

Once you decide on this, you will be able to find Facebook groups, instagram accounts, and forums where these communities are active, and you will be able to quickly find opportunities for products. 

  1. Look at your competition on Etsy

It is very easy to see what other shops in the same niche are creating, what is hot, and what marketing angles they are taking. This doesn’t mean that you should copy them completely, but it would be silly not to take notes and incorporate some of the same ideas when creating your own products. 

One tool that was very helpful for us at the beginning and throughout our days of selling on Etsy was Erank.com.  Erank is awesome because it aggregates all of the sales information for your shop as well as all of your competition’s shops.  It also gives you an SEO report that is very helpful to help you rank better for keywords that you are targeting.  (For more on Etsy SEO, you can check out this article.) 

For us, this tool was indispensable. We used it to help us find new products, trends, and ideas on a weekly basis. Another alternative to Erank is Marmalead. We briefly used this service as well, but we found Erank to be the only Etsy tool we needed in the long run.

  1. Determine Logistics and feasibility

Ok, so you have thought through your skills and passions, you have mapped out some gaps in the marketplace, and you have seen what the competition has to offer. 

Hopefully by now you have some ideas churning on what it is you can offer.  Once you have a list of these, next you have to decide which ones are feasible and profitable. Let’s use a jewelry shop as an example to see what some of the decisions that you will have to make when you are starting out:

  1. First, you will need to find a supplier for all of the accessories that you will be putting together to make your beautiful pieces of jewelry. 
  1. You will need to find the capital to invest in the accessories, so that you have material stock and can make the individual pieces as quickly as possible when orders start coming in.
  1. You will have to look at competitor pricing….are you able to match what they are offering at the price points that they are offering it at?
  1. Where will your workshop/production space be? 
  1. How much time do you have per day to produce the products and answer customer questions?
  1. How will you ship the products?

The questions above are just a few of the ones that you will need to answer when you get started. I know, there is a lot to do! But no worries, just take one step at a time and you will soon be on your way to a thriving shop!

I guess here would also be a good time for a plug for Riverr…If you desperately want to get started with an Etsy shop but don’t have a lot of extra money or time on your hands, then you are still in luck! 

Riverr allows customers to sell hundreds of different products in their Etsy shop without having to purchase anything before a sale is made. 

How does this work? All you have to do is create some designs for your target audience and digitally add it to a mockup of the item you want to sell, and we will take care of the rest! 

When someone purchases your “Friends Forever” T-shirt, the order flows from Etsy to Riverr. Once it is in the system, we can take care of fulfillment and shipping, and we will notify the customer when it is on it’s way and what the tracking number is as well. This makes your job a lot easier and allows you to focus on the customer service side of the business.  

If you want to learn more about our fulfillment services, you can learn more here.

Fees

Yay! Let’s talk about fees! Unfortunately, fees have become one of the largest pain points for sellers over the past two years. 

Etsy has drastically changed their fee structures multiple times, and if you ever find yourself on the Etsy seller forum, you will find that there is a lot of distaste for Etsy because of these changes. 

In short, Etsy raised their transaction fees to 5%, and they have been changing the way they charge (and show) your ads as well.  Here are the exact fees straight from the Etsy website:

This means that there are FOUR fees (Look carefully):

The Listing Fee

Every item you sell has a .20 cent fee, so make sure you always calculate that in your pricing. If your product is hundreds of dollars, this won’t be an issue, but if you sell accessories for a dollar, then .20 cents is significant.

The Transaction Fee

This is a blanket fee that INCLUDES shipping costs. Also, this is NOT the payment processing fee.  More on that next.

The Payment Processing Fee

This is either from paypal or from Etsy itself. Either way, the fees for payment processing are normally around 3% + $.25 per transaction.

Ad Fees

This is where it gets a bit confusing.  There are two types of ads that Etsy currently uses. (I say currently because their model for ads has changed many times over the past year.) They have ‘On-site ads’ and ‘Off-site ads.’ 

On-site ads

These are ads that are shown on the Etsy platform. Basically you tell etsy that you are willing to pay a certain amount to be at the top of the page when someone is looking for the product that you are selling.  

This is very normal for almost any marketplace, and it is run as a pay-per-click model, letting you control how much you are willing to pay to stay at the top of those pages to be seen first. 

Off-Site ads

Etsy also has an ‘Off-site’ ad model, and it hasn’t been very popular so far. They have decided to make all shop owners pay a flat percentage (12-15) every time someone purchases an item from your shop that they found through an ad on another website.  

Etsy takes care of serving these ads on websites like Google, Facebook, and others, and in return the sellers have to cough up that additional 15% of the sale to help pay for that ad. 

Why is Etsy doing this?

Etsy knows that ads can be expensive and daunting, especially on third party websites.  Etsy store owners are conservative, and many do not feel like they have the expertise to run successful ads on Google and Facebook.  

This is hard for Etsy, because they want to grow and they want people to come to their platform, so they want to participate in building their brand and awareness through ads.  Their solution to this? Force sellers to participate in offsite ads, but do it in a way that allows sellers to know exactly what the costs will be so they can price appropriately. 

Great idea, right? Maybe.  The downside is that Etsy sellers have to enroll in this program if they sell more than $10,000 worth of product in a year, which means they may have to raise their prices to make it work. 

The other potential downside is that sellers cannot control how much they want to spend on the ads, meaning that their growth from offsite ads is completely in Etsy’s hands.

Other Etsy Fees

There are other Etsy fees, but they are tied to other services that you may not need.  There is a great article from Merchant Maverick that goes into deeper detail about these fees and you can check it out here.

Let’s Get Started

Well, if you have made it with me this far, then you are definitely ready to open up your first Etsy shop.  Without further ado, let’s get started.

In order to get started, you will need to head over to Etsy’s Seller Information Page.

  1. Click on “Open Your Etsy Shop.
  1. Sign up using one of the methods given.
  1. Answer a few basic questions.
  1. Give your store a name!! 

(Soooo many names are taken, so you may have to use one of their suggested names instead.) 

  1. Add your first product  

This part can be a bit confusing, so let’s walk through it:

Add the images for your product.  Try to make them as clear as possible, and it helps if they are staged well. (Products that are staged well sell much better than those that aren’t.)

Next, add the details for this product.  Give it a title, then tell Etsy who made/will make this product. 

Next, add a category (It is important that you categorize correctly so that your customers can find you if they are searching broadly for this type of product.) You can also add a sizing scale, along with colors.  

Next is your listing description. A few tips for making your description helpful and on-point:

  1. Don’t make it robotic and hard to read.  This should resonate with your audience and it should make them feel like they are being told about this product from a friend. 
  1. Include keywords. Although keyword stuffing should be avoided, you should definitely include the keywords for this product within the description and preferably at the beginning. This will help Etsy understand what the focus of this product is.
  1. Be as informative as possible.  The two sentences above are a great example of what NOT to do. Also include measurements if possible.
  1. Although it isn’t ideal, many shop owners also put their return policies within this box.  It is up to you where you want to put it, but make sure that you have your policies listed clearly somewhere in your shop!

If possible, include an occasion or celebration.  This will help you when users are searching within those categories.

Your section and tags are very important!  The section is how you will categorize products within your specific shop, but it also gives you a keyword to link to that product.  The tags are very important, so make sure you use all 13 of them wisely.  

We will dive a bit more into SEO later, but this is one of your main tactics for aligning a product in a certain category within Etsy.

Next is your pricing, quantity, SKU, and variations. 

As it says in the image above, make sure that you calculate all of your costs, including shipping, along with the profit that you would like to make on each sale. 

If you are selling something that is made to order, you can simply enter 999 for the quantity and then the listing will automatically renew every time there is a sale.  

Add all of your variations, and if possible, add some skus!! It can be a pain now, but you will thank yourself later when you are selling hundreds of items a day and need to keep yourself organized! 

Don’t know what a SKU is? Check this post out here: https://www.tradegecko.com/blog/inventory-management/managing-inventory-with-skus

Almost there!! Alright, next you will need to enter your processing and shipping settings. 

Although Etsy would like for you to offer free shipping to your customers, they also give you the option of setting either: 1. Set shipping prices or 2. Variable prices given by USPS based on the dimensions and location of the customer. 

My opinion? Give free shipping if possible.  Studies have proven over and over again that you will sell more and be more profitable overall if you raise your product price and make shipping free.  

Processing times are important to get right as well. What is the fastest guarantee you can give your customers without completely stressing yourself out every day?  It may take some trial and error to figure this out, but the shorter the processing time, the better(obviously). 

And that’s it! You have just successfully created your first listing!  Just two more steps and your shop will be live to the world!

6. Enter Bank Details

7. Enter Billing Details

And there you have it! A living, breathing, Etsy Shop!  Now customers will come flooding to your door ready to buy, right? Maybe, but more than likely, probably not :(. 

So what now?  Don’t worry, I didn’t walk through all of that with you just so you had something to do today. We WILL find you some customers. 

The last part of this guide will walk you through the idea of “search” on Etsy.  

Etsy SEO has become a massive topic over time, and shop owners are learning the importance of being seen by their audience.  

The amount of buyers has grown significantly over the past three years, and the amount of Etsy sellers has more than kept up the pace of the growth curve to meet the demand. This is great for Etsy, but it makes it more difficult for sellers who want their items to be seen as often as possible. Enter SEO. 

There are specific and measured ways of increasing your exposure to your audience on Etsy. That listing that you just finished creating? That is the exact place where you will be able to create the most change and increase your visibility. Why? The listing information is where etsy learns what your products are about, and they do a great job of leading you in the correct direction with giving you specific categories and options when classifying your product.  

Here are some of those categories that are important to keep in mind:

  1. Listing Name

It’s all in the name!   The name gives the very first impression, so these are the most important words in any listing.  Include the most important words as close to the beginning of the title as possible, to ensure that important words don’t get cut off when it appears in search. Remember, users are scrolling through hundreds of options, so they are looking for something that fits their needs exactly. 

  1. Main Image

But wait, why is the image important for SEO? The images, especially the main image, is crucial for your SEO efforts.  Etsy knows what the ratio of impressions (number of times someone has seen your listing in search) to clicks is, and the better this ratio is, the more likely you will be at the top of their search results. 

It makes sense, right? Etsy wants as many clicks (And sales) as possible, so they reward the listings that perform the best for them.  What listings do people click on the most?  Well, what is the first thing that catches your eye when you look through Etsy or any other marketplace? That’s right, the image. You are not going to click on something that doesn’t even look good in the main image, are you? This is why staging your products well is absolutely critical!! 

If you do not have good looking images, you will have a very difficult time succeeding in the world of online marketplaces.

  1. Pricing

 This goes along with the idea we just talked about: customers can see pricing before they click on a listing, which means they are looking for the best prices when they are browsing as well.  If your prices are the highest in the marketplace, you will get less clicks, and, as a result, less sales. 

You don’t have to be the cheapest guy on the block, but it is important to note that your customers are very price sensitive, and your pricing directly impacts your amount of viewers and sales.  

  1. Tags

Etsy gives you 13 words or phrases to help them put together a word cloud that represents the product. Use these 13 words wisely. Do not repeat words if possible.  Try to put yourself in the mind of the buyer and think of words that you would use to help describe the thing that you are selling. 

  1. Occasion and celebration 

Birthdays, weddings, graduations, and other specific events are often used as keywords when searching for something on Etsy.  If you are selling a birthday shirt, you want that to be known as often as possible.

  1. Listing Description

 We already talked about the listing description, but lets reiterate: 1. Use product keywords at the beginning of the description 2. Use friendly language that resonates with your target audience 3. Include the benefits of your product, not just features. 

  1. Free Shipping

 Etsy has been explicit in telling sellers that they will place listings with free shipping higher in search results than those that do not.  It has been proven that customers are more likely to buy things that have free shipping over those that do not, so if you can….offer free shipping!!

Resources

We just started scratching the surface on Etsy SEO….here are a few tools to help you rank better, get more eyes and hopefully more sales:

The ultimate guide to Etsy search

https://www.etsy.com/in-en/seller-handbook/article/the-ultimate-guide-to-etsy-search/366469415790

Erank.com

Marmalead.com

http://www.morgannield.com/blog/2016/10/22/10-etsy-seo-hacks-to-skyrocket-your-sales

I know this has been a LOT of information to digest, and maybe it feels a bit overwhelming… but it’s ok! Take one thing at a time, and do what you can when you can. If you have any questions as you are getting set up, please reach out to us with questions…we love to help!!

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