10 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started My Etsy Shop

10 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started My Etsy Shop - The Handmade Mastermind

This post contains affiliate links

I started selling art prints and stationery on Etsy in January 2011. I don't remember how I found Etsy but I thought it was freaking cool that people can buy your art and have it in their home. When I did my research online, I knew I could also create art prints and sell online. But little did I know it included a lot more work than just my belief in what is possible. I recently asked members in my Facebook Group if their friend wanted to start an Etsy shop, what would you tell them? I got a lot of great responses and I wanted to share them with you here, but I also wanted to include a few of mine because this post is supposed to be what I wish I knew :)


1. Photos Matter

The world of buying online is a tricky one. Customers can't touch or feel your products, they can only rely on what your photo looks like and your description to help them decide within seconds if your product is right for them. Talk about pressure, huh? 

The problem with photos is that most of us aren't photographers, we are just creative crafty people who want to make beautiful things and sell them - but running a business is much more than that. You find that you must enhance your skills in many different areas, and photography is one of them. Having a great camera like the one I have, does help but hopefully, a few of these tips can get you started on the right foot:

  1. Don't use flash: Use natural lighting whenever possible. The flash creates these odd colors and harsh shadows that is hard to remove, even with a good photo editing program. Yes, you can use your camera phone to take pictures, but that only does so much. I would recommend that you get a light box like this or look into getting a light set up similar to this to help you achieve that perfect lighting!
  2. Props and Background: Have you thought about branding your shop? If so, what props and background would work well for your branding? It's important that you highly consider this since this will help the customer trust you and your brand which could result in a sale! It's always a good rule of thumb to use props and backgrounds that are in context of your product. So since I sell stationery, my stationery is placed on a white desk with pens, paper clips, and other stationery items. It gives the customer a chance to imagine how their life would be like with your product in their life.
  3. Composition: Having an awkward angle for your products and photos is never good - they aren't attractive! Practice angles for your product shots. Try shooting from above, off to the side, moving around the props, etc.., And PLEASE, take the time to place everything in the photo carefully and purposefully. Think of it as styling a photo shoot for a magazine, everything in the photo is carefully placed.
  4. Photo Editing: After your photos are taken, some of the biggest problems I see are photos not being edited for lighting and coloring issues. You know when you take that product photo on a white background but somehow your white background looks blue or yellow in your final photo? DON'T POST THAT PHOTO, learn some editing skills to help adjust the white balance of your photo. Also learn how to adjust brightness, contrast, and your exposure. If these phrases seem foreign to you, no worries, just go to YouTube and start your search for tutorials. I'm sure no matter the information you learn, it will help you get a bit closer to better photos. If you need some opinions, head over to my Facebook Group and post your before and after photos and my awesome members and I will be happy to give you advice. If you are having trouble editing your photos on your own, then I would recommend getting Photoshop.
  5. Stock photos: Etsy's rules are specific on using stock photos. In short, using stock photos is okay, as long as they represent the exact product you are giving the customer. Here is what Etsy had to say: "We ask that listing images be only of the actual items for sale. This means that the item in your listing photos should be the same item that buyers will receive when they make a purchase from you. Using commercial stock images or other’s images of items similar to your own is not permitted. Etsy defines stock images as any image produced by individuals who are not involved in your shop for items they have made. We also restrict the use of digitally produced, mocked-up, or rendered images that aren’t of the finished product". Stock photos can be very helpful in getting beautiful photos of your items up but I encourage you to follow the rules first. 
  6. Would Oprah Approve? One of my last tips is to think to yourself, "If Oprah asked to feature my item in their magazine, would I be proud of this photo? Is it of magazine quality?" If not, what hard work are you putting in to fix it? Photos are the lifeline to your shop - make them great!

Still need help with your Etsy photos? Then check out my blog that gives you 3 crucial steps to creating the perfect photo.

2. Price To Make A Profit:

Many sellers make this mistake often. They price low to get people interested or because they undervalue their work, but when tax season rolls around they wonder why they worked so hard and their bank account doesn't match! You must factor in the costs of your materials, labor and a few other things. I highly recommend my free pricing training to help you get started on the right pricing strategy for your business. You can access the free pricing training by signing up for my email list and getting access to the the free resource library!

I want to you check out my Facebook live on this exact topic. Sales DO NOT MATTER - whoa, did I just say that? Yup! Because they don't matter. I'd rather sell 50 products a month and make $3,000 profit than sell 400 products a month and make $2,500 profit. 

Raising your prices may be the thing you need to do, but don't forget to lower your expenses as well. I wrote a blog post on my best shipping resources to get the very best prices on shipping supplies, check it out here.


3. Learn SEO:

You guessed it, of course my members know the importance of good SEO. I mean, I'm the queen of SEO, so it only makes sense. 

SEO (which stands for Search Engine Optimization) allows buyers to find your product when they are searching on any search platform. You apply SEO to your titles and tags on Etsy and with the right methods, you can be found at the top of search. Then with the right product, sales will start to roll in. 

Imagine a world where you created beautiful products and you showed it to nobody. Not having good SEO is exactly that. You are creating beautiful things but no one can find you because you have not optimized your SEO to get found!

I built my whole six figure business (in 2015 and most of 2016) on SEO traffic alone. You heard right! I did not spend any time on social media and such, all of my sales were driven by people just searching for me. In fact, at the time of this writing, I'll be going on vacation soon and I can proudly say that I won't be working, and money will still be made because of SEO.

If you want to start getting serious about SEO and applying it to your Etsy shop, check out my SEO webinar which has helped hundreds of people get to the top of search.


4. Join The Handmade Mastermind Group

This piece of advice is literally straight out of the mouths of my members, they love me :)

I think the points they are trying to make are:

a. I am honest and I truly want to help sellers, for real! Check me out on Facebook Live, every Tuesday at 9AM CT a week to see how much I care!

b. I create classes/ webinars that are very easy to follow and members always say they wish they knew about me sooner when they see how their business has taken off because of the changes they have made. 

c. It's always nice to be part of a community of other sellers. The entrepreneurial life can be very lonely, and your friends and family do not understand you, am I right?

d. My group is a no BS group. Meaning, we don't sit around and talk about fluff and about waste of time strategies. It's meant for serious sellers who rather spend their time working on their shops than socializing on Facebook. But when they need to ask a question or get the opinion of other business owners, they know where to go.

Ready to join this awesome group that has nearly 6k members? Click here


5. Create a Product Line that YOUR CUSTOMER Loves

Nothing is worse than creating a product that doesn't sell. I know we are creative and want to create things that we love, and we can but it's important to also consider your target market and what THEY want. 

The important lesson here is get to know your target market, and what products they expect from you and then you can put your own twist on them. 

Here are a few things to consider when getting to know your target customer:

a. What do they use your product for?

b. Why do they need your product? What problem does it solve for them?

c. Do you know the basic demographic of your customer? Male/Female? Age range? Married? Has kids? etc..,? 

Those are a few things to start to ask yourself and write down! You need to understand what your customer uses your product for, in order to understand how you can continue to create more products that they love. You also need to know what problem does it solve for them so you can continue to create products that help people in some way or another.

If you need more help narrowing down your target market and using that information in building your product line and marketing, check out my target market webinar here. Don't forget to check out my blog post on how to create a successful product line.


6. Don't Play Games to Gain Views and Likes

This is one of the worst things you can do for your business. Here is why:

a. Its a HUGE time suck - and you know we already lack time to run our business

b. Its skews your stats and makes you believe that you have a high number of views which gives you a sense of false hope. Therefore leads to not working as hard on your shop because you think you are already a rock star.

c. It decreases conversion rates. Why does that matter? Well because all search engines care if you are creating engaging content. In the world of eCommerce engaging content = sales. So if you have a million people look at your listings (which is what these stupid games do) and only 1 person buy, the search engines will believe you aren't as relevant and it will push you to the back of the search. 

d. Search engines aren't stupid, they know the traffic you are getting all of a sudden isn't organic traffic, so stop it! It's hurting you!


7. Descriptions Matter

Do not listen to all of the nay-sayers who tell you "Buyers don't read descriptions!" Wrong! They do, but you will never hear them say "Omg! the buyer read my description", because when the sale goes smoothly, we don't complain. We just jump for joy, move on and work on getting the next sale. Point is, many people read your descriptions so make them good!

Here is some tips to make sure you have a great description:

a. Describe your product like selling them the benefit of your product. No one NEEDS your product, they WANT your product. So selling them on the benefit is important so they know what is in it for them. 

b. Don't forget to list out the features of your product. Think about the features that matter for your market and your customer.

c. Tell them exactly what to do to order. If you are on Etsy, that platform can be confusing for buyers so explain how to order your product step by step so there is no confusion.

d. Use bullets and numbers to highlight points or provide steps. 

A well written description will help the buyer trust you more because your shop and your brand will come off as more professional. I certainly don't want to buy from an amateur because I believe their products may also be amateur.

If you need more help with descriptions and a step by step guide to walk you through writing a description that will entice customers to purchase, lay out all the important information and keep people shopping in your store, check out my Rock Your Descriptions course here.


8. Don't Copy Other Shops/Trademarked Items

The reason why this is on the list is because I find many newbies want to start out by creating things that are high in demand (good thinking!) but in doing so, they create things that someone else worked hard to make high in demand (bad, bad!!!). I highly advise against this and here is why:

a. IT'S NOT YOUR PROPERTY. I think this reason speaks for itself, but just in case you need more reasons keep reading...

b. You will set yourself up to fail. Imagine you build a business selling Disney related items, and one day Etsy or the Disney guys take you down. You have worked hard to build this business that is now providing for you and your family to have it be taken away from you. Not cool. You have made some important life decisions based on the success of your business. Take me for instance, I quit my full time job to sell personalized stationery. If I were selling designs that are infringing on someones intellectual property and then have my business shut down because of my silliness, I would be putting my families well being in jeopardy because I quit my other job to do this! 

Moral of the story, I am not the IP police but just don't copy other peoples work! Still unsure what is protected by Trademark or Copyright? Then check out my blog post that will answer all your questions! Are you new to selling online and have no clue how all this works? Then check out my blog that gives newbies 6 great tips how to bring in more sales.

9. Start Good Book Keeping Practices

This usually comes up when a business owner is like a year into their business and they realize, "Oh yea, I need to pay taxes. How do I do that and what do I do?". Then you slowly realize that you need to have kept track of all the revenue and all of the expenses you have made for the business for that year. I will tell you from experience that it is not a pleasant experience when you are trying to play catch up. 

Start with some simple book keeping practices!

a. Save all your receipts and file them by month. 

b. Write details on your receipt so you know exactly what you purchased. Sometimes we look at a receipt a few months later and have no idea what the hell we purchased.

c. If you do not want to manually keep track of cash flow and expenses, then I'd recommend QuickBooks for a cost effective book keeping solution. It will sync up to your Etsy account and many other selling avenues to make it easy for you.

PLEASE don't wait until it's too late. it's so stressful!


10. Don't Worry About Getting it Wrong, Just Start!

With all of this advice I can sense you are hesitant. You are probably scared to start selling online because you want me to make sure you are ready or you are waiting for the right moment when you have all your ducks in a row. Well guess what? That will never happen! You can ask any business owner, we are always working on improving our shops and our businesses so if you don't start now, you may never find a good time. 

No more excuses, just start and continue to work on your shop and have a game plan. Plan your workday like a boss and you will eventually get your shop to the level it needs to be. 


Got any tips for newbies that you wish you knew before you started your Etsy shop? Share them below in the comments.


Oh and I also have a private Facebook group you can join and ask questions and my awesome members and I will answer :) JOIN THE GROUP



Browse Related Posts