Wednesday, June 11, 2014

What I Learned About Starting An Etsy Shop

This past weekend I decided to officially open an Etsy shop. I've always considered it and even attempted to open one before to sell buttons. Yeah, just buttons. Obviously that didn't go anywhere. I never took it seriously and I had the worst pictures you could possibly imagine. I think at that time, I was still using my digital camera that had taken a little swim in a lake. I couldn't adjust any of the settings and there were permanent water spots on every photo. I'll let you take a moment to just picture what that Etsy shop looked like.

This time around I wanted to take things a bit more seriously. I want people to be inspired by what I have to offer. I want them to see my envelopes and that makes them want to write a letter. As I'm just going through the process of opening my shop and putting the final touches on everything, I thought I would share what I've learned so far!

Understand your mission. Why do you want to open an Etsy shop? Everyone wants to make money doing what they love. Why would people want to spend money on what you love and have to offer? I've always been complimented on my mail art but I never took myself seriously. And, let's be honest, it would be a ton of work for me to make and sell original collages. When I finally put two & two together in my head and started working on digital collages, everything kind of clicked into place. I've realized that I want to inspire people to write letters. I want to inspire people who write already write letters and people who have never even considered it.

Don't wait for everything to be perfect. I've spent way too long waiting for everything to fall into place before I would do this or that. I told myself I wouldn't open my shop until I had the time to take beautiful photos and write amazing descriptions for my products. Take a deep breath and just dive in! I put a bunch of photos up that aren't perfect but they can be changed. I'm working with what I have but I'm also looking to constantly improve. You won't know everything up front and that's okay.

Have someone around that you can bounce ideas off of. Without Nathan, I'm sure I would be still stuck on what I should write in for my shop title. Surprisingly, I'm not that great at expressing my point with words. It was super helpful to explain to Nathan what I'm trying to portray and we could discuss different words or phrasing. A second set of eyes never hurts anyone! If nothing else, make sure to read things out loud or a few times in your head to make sure they make sense! I like to refer to Nathan as my wordsmith.

Be yourself! This is probably the most-used advice for anything, ever so you should just embrace it. I've always been a bit weird and think really strange things are funny. My message to buyers starts out by saying "Thank you for supporting the snail mail revolution." Think of the people that you admire or the ones you gravitate to. Chances are they are the ones that are being completely genuine. It's an attractive trait!

Keep track of things. Once I decided that I was going to take this seriously, I sat down and created some spreadsheets; one for inventory and one for pricing. Keep your receipts so you can be certain of how much you're spending and calculate those costs into the total price of your product. Keep in mind the fees that Etsy (and PayPal, if you choose to use it) charges. Of course you don't want to feel like your overcharging for what you're selling but there is no point in selling something and not making money off of it! For example, I'm charging $10 for a set of 5 envelopes but for each sale, I'm only making a few dollars profit.

Resize your images correctly. Product photos are arguably the most important part of your Etsy store and you want to make sure they look cohesive. In the Etsy FAQ, they simply tell you to keep your photos between 800-1000 pixels wide. With that advice, I had a ton of trouble figuring out why some images showed up with a gray box around them and some did not. Crop your images to be square and then resize them to the proper pixel width.

Be prepared to list items. It seems Etsy has changed the way things work these days. I believe you used to be able to prepare all of your store information, policies, graphics, etc. before you had to list an item. Etsy now requires that listing an item be the first thing you do before you can get to setting everything else up. This listing requires photos as well so keep that in mind!


  1. I've thought about doing an etsy, but still not there yet. I did pick up a book on crafting as a business, and as soon as they got into getting a business license and bookkeeping, I tuned out. I'll get through this terribly busy summer and then reassess.
    My Best to You!!!

    1. I know the whole business license is super overwhelming. I'm still trying to figure it out myself :p

  2. Hi Tara, Your shop looks awesome! I have two suggestions, although maybe you are already working on this! I think you should give each envelope that you design a name and then have the name in the title of the item description. Like "Dactyl : Set of 5 Handmade....." That might make it easier to navigate or search for items.

    Also, have you considered offering a variety pack where people could choose their 5 favorite designs and get one of each?

    1. Thanks for your suggestions! I am definitely working on adding more descriptive titles for everything. That is going to be my project for this weekend! I will also be adding a variety pack and stationery sets soon :)

  3. Once again, your designs are spectacular and I am excited that you have opened a shop!! Now I just need to sell some of my own art so I can buy some new stationery from you. XD