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How to Start Your Own Etsy Shop: A Checklist

by Hanna Brooks Olsen
craft & maker, featured

etsy store
You’ve been crafting in your garage for years, and everyone you know says you should sell your products in an actual marketplace. You’ve read the stories and heard the tales of crafters and makers who are supplementing their income and even making a full-time job of their one-time hobby. Are you ready, you wonder, to finally launch your Etsy store?

Before you do, mentor, crafter, and jeweler Marlo Miyashiro has some advice about what you’ll need from day one, ranging from the nitty-gritty to the business savvy. Often, potential Etsy sellers see their shops as a kind of clearing house for everything they make. Instead, think of it as an extension of your small business, which also includes social networks, craft show booths, and possibly even wholesaling. Even if you’re a long way away from actually creating a small business for your goods, treat your Etsy shop like a business and you’ll see more sales, better word-of-mouth, and more success overall.

Here’s what you need to hit the ground running:

A brand. 

Before you begin selling your wares or even open up shop, you’ve got to make sure that you’ve got a cohesive brand and comprehensive message.

“What are you selling? Seems kind of obvious…but if you’re an ultra-crafty person, you’re going to have to decide what you want to put in your shop,” says Marlo. Branding can help you narrow down which items to sell, which media to work in, and how you want the world to perceive you. Instead of just throwing up everything you’ve ever made, create a streamlined brand and a mission statement for yourself.

When you first begin to fill out your Esty store’s information, you’ll be asked to fill in information like a logo, a tagline, and a brand story. Not only will your store look incomplete and unprofessional without these things, but you may also find that you’re not that clear in your overall selling goals. Make sure you have every detail of the brand of your store — including colors you’ll be using and keywords you’d like associated with your company — in place before you even start building out your store.

A customer profile.

“The more focused you can get your Etsy shop, the better it is for potential customers,”says Marlo — and that also means focusing on who that potential customer is. Who are you hoping will buy your goods? What other kinds of things do they like to do? Consider creating a Pinterest board (here’s how to do that) to create a customer profile for your ideal shopper. This will help you get focused and better select what to sell and how to market it.

Social media presence.

Etsy has the capability to link your store to your social media sites, which you should “definitely do,” says Marlo, because it improves your SEO and makes you more likely to be found on search. Social media sites are also a good way to measure what your customers think of you, and let them contact you in a variety of ways. Your social media profiles can either be for you, personally, or for your brand, but either way, you’re going to want them well-populated by the time you launch your store.

etsy shop product photography

Photo: Marlo Miyashiro

Solid photography.

Photography on Etsy is key. There are no two ways about it: The quality of your photos matters. And while there’s definitely a style of Etsy photography that’s popular, what’s more important is that your photography captures your items in their best light, in a way that speaks to your customers.

“You don’t have to have a white background, but what you do have to have is a clear idea of what your shop is going to be and who you’re selling to,” she explains.

Whatever background color you decide on, the most important element of your photos is quality. No blinding flash, no blurry images, and no distractions in the background.

“Whatever you do, make sure you do spend some time trying to understand how to take better photos of your work.”

And yes, we do have a CreativeLive class for that, and Marlo herself teaches small object photography if you’d like to hone your skills.

A fulfillment plan.

Here’s a hard question: How are you going to get your items to your customers? Is shipping extra, and have you built in the opportunity cost of the time it takes to bring packages to the post office or FedEx store? What about shipping materials? If you have a full-time job, is there someone else who will be helping you ship items? Or, would you rather pay a third party and let them handle the fulfillment?

Services like Fulfillrite and Shipwire can help you take care of the shipping, or you can go directly through Etsy, who provide discounted shipping labels to their sellers. However you choose to do it, make sure you’ve done your research and have a plan in place before customers start ordering products.

Merchandise.

How many units do you have on-hand? How many units do you expect to sell? How many units can you make per day, or per week? The best case scenario is that your Etsy shop is a huge hit, but that can mean a whole lot of work if your crafts are particularly labor-intensive. Spend some time beefing up your backstock to make sure you’re ready for the big day.

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Hanna Brooks Olsen

Hanna Brooks Olsen is a writer and editor for CreativeLive, longtime reporter, and the co-founder of Seattlish. Follow her on Twitter at @mshannabrooks or go to her website for more stuff.