by Sally B. | Featured Contributor
In last month’s post, we looked at some big-picture questions about selling on Etsy. If you’ve decided you’re ready to dive into the Etsy pond, congratulations! But starting any new project can be intimidating.
Me working on an early product | Photo: Sally B.
In the next two posts, I suggest a step-by-step approach to getting your new business off the ground. For today, let’s look at these three:
- Open Your Account
- Get the Facts, Ma’am
- Decide What to Sell
Open Your Account
The first thing you’ll want to do is to set up a member’s account at http://www.etsy.com. This account can be used for buying and/or selling. At this point you won’t actually open your shop. You just need a member’s account to participate in the community forums and explore the shop set-up process.
I recommend that you open a second account when you’re ready to start selling—don’t use this initial one. Why? Whatever username you sign up with will, by default, become your shop name. Technically, Etsy lets you change your username once per account. So if you know your shop name now, go ahead and use it as a username to open an account. But if you’re unsure about your shop name, open a new account when you’re ready to sell. That way, you preserve the option to change your shop name in the future. Lots of sellers, including me, have found it advantageous to do this.
Get the Facts, Ma’am
One of Etsy’s strengths is the wealth of information it provides sellers. It’s to our advantage to use it, especially as we prepare to sell. Start with the Etsy Dos and Don’ts (http://www.etsy.com/help/article/483), which spells out the necessary rules. Make sure you know them, because shops that break them can be closed. Next, I recommend the Seller Handbook (http://www.etsy.com/blog/en/2012/the-seller-handbook/). This contains short, excellent articles on almost every aspect of doing business on Etsy.
You can also get great information in the Etsy community forums. These are accessed from the “Community” tab on the Etsy page. You can search the forum archives for posts (called “threads”) on almost any topic, or start a new thread if you don’t find what you’re looking for.
Note: While the forums are a great resource, keep in mind that anyone can post there and the information is sometimes inaccurate. Look for second, and third, opinions.
Sally B.| Photo credit: Halle Smith
Decide What to Sell.
In a recently published article (link: http://www.etsy.com/blog/en/2012/the-four-keys-to-success-for-new-sellers/), Etsy stated that the number one “key to success” for new sellers is to have a great product.
At first glance, this seems obvious. Surely the foundation of any business is its product. Yet many of us start out simply marketing what we like to make. Maybe my friends are saying, “You could sell your earrings!” Or I have an attic full of old stuff that I’d like to sell as vintage.
It’s stated repeatedly on Etsy that we have to love what we sell to be successful. I agree. For the time we invest, we’d better feel passionate about what we’re doing.
But what if 50,000 other people share the same passion? Or what if my product takes so long to make that I can’t make it profitably? (This happened to me.) Selling in a saturated market, or selling our work for less than it’s worth, can be discouraging.
The answer, I believe, lies in the nature of creativity itself. Most creative people like to do more than one thing. At the very least, we have the ability to think of new ideas.
As you prepare to sell on Etsy, it’s well worth brainstorming a list of product concepts – ones you enjoy making – and then doing research to refine them. Keep in mind, also, that many sellers change their products as they get a feel for the market (I no longer sell what I was making in the top photograph, because it took me too long to make). What you need is a viable place to start.
There’s no clear definition of “a great product,” but these ideas will help narrow your list.
1. A good product on Etsy must meet the guidelines for Handmade, Vintage, or Supplies (see above, “Dos and Don’ts).
2. A good product is desirable to more than one market. For instance, men and women both use coffee mugs, while (probably) only men use shaving mugs. We’ll have more sales if we appeal to more than one group of customers.
3. The ideal product will not be in a saturated market. It’s not impossible to sell in such a market, but it’s harder to stand out.
For a rough test of market saturation, search for your product name in Etsy’s search engine. How many listings are already there? 100? 10,000? Now’s also a good time to look at the quality and prices of these other products – they’re your potential competition.
Etsy is currently testing two other tools that can help you assess your ideas. “Inspiration” (http://www.etsy.com/prototypes/inspiration) shows product ideas that people are searching for, but which don’t have many items for sale. “Compare Ideas” (http://www.etsy.com/prototypes/compare) lets you type in up to five product ideas and compare them for popularity and scarcity, among other measurements.
Finally, search the Etsy forums for threads on saturated markets. You’ll find invaluable advice from other sellers.
4. A good product can be made in reasonable time frame. How long does it take to make the product you’re considering? How much would you need to sell it for to make it worth your time? How much are other similar items selling for?
If you’ve gone through these steps, you’ve probably gained critical insight into how you want to begin your business on Etsy. In next month’s post we’ll explore choosing a shop name and setting up your actual shop.
Final words: Know that this is a process. There are no right or wrong answers…only the ones that work for you. Good luck and have fun. I welcome your comments and questions at any time.
Sally B.is the owner of Chronologie Vintage on Etsy. Come along with Sally as she shares her insights about running a successful small business on this hugely popular and expanding online marketplace.
Sally B. began selling upcycled clothing on Etsy in 2009. Using lessons learned the hard way in this first shop, Sally opened Chronologie Vintage in 2011. To date, Chronologie is going gangbusters and provides a solid second income to her family.
Whether you already have a shop on Etsy or would like to learn about starting one, let Sally be your Etsy Guide. You can do it!