10 Steps to Selling on Etsy and Making a Living with your Passion

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Do you love making things with your hands?

Do you have a product idea that you think will do well as a business?

Wouldn’t it be really awesome to make a living selling the things you love to make?

It’s every maker’s dream!

If you’re completely clueless as to where to begin, I’m here to help!

While I would normally advocate for you to start by setting up your own shop/domain, sometimes what you really need is the fastest route to setting up shop.

Creating your own ecommerce shop takes more time and involves a steeper learning curve. It can be way over your head.

Good news is, you have tons of opportunities to start an online store without jumping through technical hoops.

Enter Etsy.

Etsy is the biggest handmade marketplace online today. Millions of people shop on Etsy daily, and your store could be one of the many that’s making sales.

It’s free to open a shop. Transaction fees are only 3.5% per sale. It costs $0.20 USD to list an item for 4 months. Read on for how you can get your first 40 listings are free!

Here are 10 steps to selling on Etsy and making a living with your passion.

1. Identifying your ideal customer group

Now that you’ve figured out your specialty, you need to identify your ideal customer group.

Who are your products for?

Knowing who your customer is before you even make your first sale sounds kind of woo woo.

How are you supposed to know?

There’s that saying, “begin with the end in mind” has something to do with this.

When you have your ideal customer in your head, you’ll have more clarity on:

  • How to find them
  • How to communicate with them
  • How to persuade them to buy from you

Your ideal customer can take many forms, but let’s focus on finding out your major ideal customer group.

Think of this as a group of like-minded people.

For example: yoga practitioners, home schooling stay-at-home moms, bus drivers, teachers, lawyers, accountants, nurses, dog lovers, , foodies, wine drinkers and so on.

The reason we’re identifying your ideal customer group first before even thinking about what you’re going to sell is an important one.

You need to be sure there’s a market for what you plan to sell in your Etsy shop.

If you make a really highly specialized product that only 7 people in the world would be interested in, you don’t really have much of a business model.

Dream up the ideal customer who will not hesitate to buy your products, who will become a loyal customer bringing you repeat sales and who will be telling all her friends about you.

Who is that person who will do all of the above? Download this target customer exercise and fill it in.

2. Figuring out your specialty/niche

Most creative people like you are really talented at making lots of different things.

This actually puts you in a bit of a pickle.

In order to have a successful Etsy shop, you need to focus on one specialty or niche.

If you offer a wide variety of many different things that appeal to different types of people in the world, you’ll only hinder your progress for making a living with your passion.

The counter intuitive strategy you need to take is with deciding on your niche from the get go.

Choosing a product focus will allow you to be more consistent with your shop. You’ll become known as the go-to person or shop in the market for your niche.

This will spread word of mouth about you – which is the most powerful form of marketing any business!

This may not take you overnight to figure out, so take some time with this.

An example of a niche is with my own handmade jewelry business.

Handmade jewelry in itself is a very general and highly competitive market.

But I make super cute scented food jewelry from sculpting polymer clay. I make miniature dessert charms and give them a fragrance that matches what they look like.

Combine this specialty with a very focused marketing effort, I become known as THE brand for scented food jewelry very quickly.

Another niche example is with my client’s brand: Chandeliers by NK. Nicole Ketchum designs colorful acrylic chandeliers that you can use as home or party decor.

Chandeliers by themselves are a general idea that plenty of people are selling.

Nicole’s shop stands out because she makes acrylic chandeliers that look really cool and different from anything you’ve ever seen before.

So, what is your niche or specialty?

Get specific!

3. Naming your Etsy shop

Don’t make the mistake of creating a super long Etsy shop name. Or a complicated name or one that uses really big words.

This makes it hard for people to remember your shop name.

Avoid using words like “jewelry”, “candles”, “clothing” in your shop name, just in case you expand into different products in the future.

You want to pick a name that you can grow into.

Made up words can be cute, but again, be careful not too make it too incoherent.

Two words is common with brand names. A name with three words or more is kind of pushing it, and you risk being put in that zone of “I can’t remember your shop name”.

Try out Shopify’s business name generator or Name Mesh for some ideas!

It’s important that you pick a name that isn’t already used by someone else. So be sure to do a quick search on Etsy, Google and on social media to check if the name is already taken or not.

Avoid using numerics in your brand name, because they can be confusing when communicating with people in person. Fantastic5 could also be FantasticFive, but which should your customer type out?

I love coming up with brand names, but hate having to choose just one!

It can definitely be time consuming.

Don’t be afraid to get feedback from your friends and family!

4. Creating your cohesive product line

Most creatives start their Etsy shop without doing Steps 1 and 2 first.

As a result, they have “garage sale” Etsy shops where they sell a mishmash of all sorts of different things.

You definitely don’t want to be a garage sale if you’re trying to make a living with your craft.

Now that you have your ideal customer group and niche in mind, you can start brainstorming product ideas!

The first step to creating a shop that looks professional is to build a cohesive product line.

Your products should all tie in together and share common design or functional values.

Think of your products as a collection, not a mishmash of garage sale items.

This helps make your shop memorable in your customers’ eyes.

Your Etsy shop can have multiple unique collections and each collection can have multiple products.

Collections should be groups of items sharing similar attributes, such as size, color, material, and so on.

Aim to create approximately 3 Etsy pages worth of products. That’s about 66-72 unique products.

This will probably be the fun part for you, because you love designing and creating!

5. Pricing your product line

Next, you’ll want to price your product line.

Pricing can be an art and science at the same time!

There’s no magic dust answer but there certainly is a magic formula that you can use to determine the prices of your own products.

The first step you need to take is with timing yourself making your products.

Second, decide what your hourly rate is. You definitely want to pay yourself more than minimum wage! Depending on where you live and the cost of living in your state, this could be anywhere from $15-25 or more.

Third, enter in your time spent making the product, hourly rate and cost of materials in this pricing calculator I made just for you (it’s free!),

Get your copy here and plug in your numbers and it’ll magically show you your wholesale and retail pricing.

Pricing is a never ending topic, so don’t just stop there. Here are further resources on pricing:

  • How to price handmade items guide
  • How to pay yourself in your Etsy business
  • How to raise your prices

Just keep in mind that most creatives fall into the trap of under pricing their products.

Or you might find that your products are priced too high because you either paid too much for your materials or spent too much time making the product.

See if you can buy your materials in bulk and at wholesale pricing.

And consider streamlining your production process so you’re not spending 10 hours on a product that should only be priced at $20.

6. Photographing your products

It’s time to photograph your products!

Photography is one of the most important things you need to get right with your Etsy shop.

Your photos are the only way to catch the attention of your potential customer and convince them to buy.

There’s no opportunity for them to hold, touch, smell or look at your product in person, so give them every reason to buy from you using your photos.

Your first photo for every Etsy listing should be consistent.

If you use a white background, you should use a white background for all your photos (at least for the main, first image).

It’s always a good idea to have both white background product photos and lifestyle photos that connect with your buyers at an emotional level.

Lifestyle photos are important for creating a deep, burning desire for your product.

You don’t need to have a fancy DSLR camera to take great product photos.

A point and shoot camera or your iPhone camera can do a pretty good job for you!

Here are links to resources on how to take great product shots for your Etsy shop!

  • White backgrounds vs lifestyle photos
  • How to take perfect product photos on a white background
  • How to edit product photos for a white background in one minute
  • How to do model photography (lifestyle shots) for your products

7. Setting up your Etsy store

You should now have all the information ready for your Etsy shop!

Go sign up for an Etsy seller account here.

A few things you’ll need to add to your Etsy shop are:

  1. Your Etsy shop banner
  2. Your shop owner profile picture
  3. Your shop icon/picture
  4. Your Shop Announcement
  5. Your Etsy shop’s About page
  6. Your Policies page
  7. Your shipping settings
  8. Your payment information

If you’re savvy with photo editing software like Photoshop, Canva, Gimp or PicMonkey, you can easily create a shop banner!

I like incorporating images of my products, because I feel my product photos tell a really great story about what I’m selling.

Consider using your brand colors – remember to think of your ideal customer group and your niche!

It’s also a good idea to include your Etsy shop name in your banner.

If you aren’t tech savvy, you can always buy a premade or custom shop banner from a designer on Etsy! Just use the Etsy search bar to begin your hunt.

Your Shop Announcement should include important keyphrases that you want to be found for (more on this in Step 9). You can include your brand’s tagline if you have one, a notice on turnaround time and links to your email newsletter page or social media profiles.

8. Creating your Etsy listings

Now you can go ahead and create a new listing for each product.

Once you’re in Etsy’s listing manager, it’s pretty straight forward. Etsy will ask you a variety of questions about your product and all you need to do is select options from drop down menus or type in your description, title and tags!

Here are a few things to bear in mind:

  • Use the same size photos for all images
  • Use all five photos slots (you definitely want to be displaying your products in multiple angles)
  • Write a product description that address both benefits and features of your product

A product benefit is how your product will make your customer feel.

People ultimately buy based on feelings!

A product feature is a product’s physical attributes, such as sizing dimensions, color, materials and so on.

I’ve noticed that as creatives, we can be too close to our own products. Describing them in a a benefits oriented way can be difficult!

It’s completely OK to hire some help with this. You can work with someone on Fiverr or Upwork.

Always request for samples of their work first so you have an idea for their writing style.

Or see if you can barter with a friend in exchange for some writing help.

9. Optimizing your Etsy listings

One great way for people to find you is through Etsy’s search engine. Make it easy for people to find your products by clearly describing what you’re selling.

Avoid making up fictitious names for your products! Instead, use descriptive words that describe your product.

Important keyphrases that describe your product should appear as the first few words of your product title.

They should also be included in your tags and description too.

This will ensure your Etsy listings get found in Etsy’s search engine that people use to look for products they’re interested in!

Here’s a more in depth tutorial on the top five ways to get your shop seen with Etsy SEO by the search engine experts at Marmalead.

Here’s Etsy’s official article on how to rank higher in Etsy’s search engine.

Optimizing your Etsy listings is an easy way to set up your shop for more sales, but it takes a lot of tweaking to discover the best keyphrases for your products.

10. Your one marketing focus

Now that you’ve set up your shop and optimized your listings for higher ranking in Etsy search, you need to do some actual marketing if you want to make sales!

A lot of artists spend most of their time designing products and setting up listings, but never on marketing.

This is a surefire way to NOT make any sales!

80% of your time spent should be on marketing and 20% on creating new designs.

As odd as that sounds, this is the reality of running an online business today.

There are hundreds of thousands of creative people like you who want to make a living from their skills.

Your marketing will help you stand out from the crowd!

Marketing can involve social media, PR and publicity, blogging, email marketing and paid advertising.

Most creatives are utilizing social media these days because it’s so easy to start! (But not easy to do well!)

Regardless of where you set up your business, you need to decide on your one marketing focus.

Even though you now have various channels and opportunities to market your business, you really need to just pick one place.

Focus on getting really good at it, then create systems to automate and streamline it.

You can then include a new form of marketing to your routine. But just always be focusing on one form at any one point in time.

Your marketing needs to be done consistently and frequently in order for it to be effective.

You also need to have a strategy for how to maneuver in your chosen form of marketing.

Spend the next 6-12 months on your marketing focus, and whatever you do, don’t give up!

Here are some further resources on how to do marketing:

  • Handmade Marketing That Works e-course on the top marketing channels for your handmade business
  • In The Limelight e-course on how to pitch and get featured by bloggers, magazines, TV and social media influencers
  • ChaChing! 7 Day Instagram Challenge + Email Course
  • Facebook Recovery System on how to do Facebook marketing

After you’ve completed the set up phase for your Etsy shop, you’ll be entering a new world of marketing.

Don’t ignore it, because it’ll be the key to your success selling on Etsy.

Take the time to invest in your education on how to do marketing, and you’ll be on your way to making a living on Etsy!

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