This is by no means an the end-all-be-all in Etsy how-to guides. This is just my personal experience in my first year. And it is JUST my first year, so I’m by no means an expert. But, as someone who jumped into selling on Etsy with no real idea what I was doing — these are the things that I’d wished I’d known on day one.
(Keep in mind, as a digital download seller, my experiences are limited to that sphere. I don’t have to deal with physical inventory and shipping and all that. My hat’s off to you that do. To those about to go to the post office, we salute you.)
Look to the people who have been here for years. Once you’ve taken in my little nuggets of year-old wisdom, check out the pros who’ve been at it for a decade. Look at their blogs, social media and read the forums. I learned so much on the forums at Etsy. They’re a gold mine if you pay attention. Find active Etsy Teams that are specific to your type of shop. Also helpful? The Etsy subreddit.
If you build it (it being a strong SEO strategy), they will come. Search Engine Optimization is so, so important. The most important at the very beginning. Until you can spend thousands on a wide-reaching digital advertising campaign, your customers are going to find you through search — specifically Etsy and Google. I get a decent amount of traffic from social media, but the vast majority of my views come from search results.
What does good SEO look like? Well. On Etsy, it’s not very pretty.
You might have noticed that I give my design packs cutesy names sometimes. And you’ll notice that the actual title of my listing does not contain that cutesy name. At first it did. A year ago that title on the left would just say “Witches’ Familiars.” Maybe “Witches’ Familiars – Halloween Digital Papers.” But no one is searching Etsy for “Witches’ Familiars.” (Well, they might be. But I don’t think those people are hoping to find a digital pattern with owls on it.)
My title is “Halloween Digital Paper – Spider Scrapbooking Paper – Bat Digital Craft Paper – Distressed Halloween Paper – Instant Download – 12 Sheets” because some combination of those words is what people who are actually looking to buy my product are searching for. It’s not pretty or cute or succinct in anyway. But it works. And it doesn’t stop there. I repeat those words (and even MORE keywords) as my tags. (P.S. Always use every single tag you can.) That repetition is key in strengthening those search rankings. When I learned to do this, I saw an IMMEDIATE change in the volume of views I was getting.
Anyway, I could go on. But it’s important to do your SEO research. There are tons of better sources than me out there. In fact, I could do with plenty more studying myself. I’m far from an expert.
Yeah, yeah. Social media. Keeping up with social media is hard. My shop has a Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Tumblr. In addition to this blog. It’s REAL hard to keep up with it all. But maintaining a consistent presence online is good for lending legitimacy to your product.
And don’t just plug your own shop, share other things you love and things that influence your product. It’s a good way to find the audience that wants what you offer.
Be patient. You aren’t going to get sales immediately. You aren’t going to get views immediately. It was nearly two months before I got my first sale. And then it was my only sale that month. There are far more successful shops that waited far longer than I did for their first sale. You are going to be sitting there looking at your empty Etsy dashboard and get discouraged. Don’t. Keep working. In one year, I went from being over the moon with five sales a month to getting anxious if I go more than two days without a sale. (As a wise man once said: More money, more problems.)
Don’t sell yourself short. I started out with the attitude that “no one’s probably gonna like this stuff. I’ll just price it really low.” But surprise!, that wasn’t at all worth my time. Value your work and other people will too. I thought I was taking a huge risk by raising my prices. Turns out my sales only ever increased. You’re a small business owner. If you went into a retail store and the owner said, “This is a bunch of junk you probably don’t even want. I guess I’ll take a dollar for it.” you’re probably not going to be very impressed. Your Etsy shop is no different.
It’s always a work in progress. There’s so much stuff I know I need to work on. And will continue to work on. I need to at the very least double my inventory. I need to strengthen my branding. And, stepping away from the strictly Etsy advice — I need to diversify my sales outlets. Once I have more eggs, I’ll need more baskets. But stay tuned for all that on the second anniversary.
Good luck and happy making (and selling)!