Saturday, November 10, 2012

Successfully Running an Etsy Shop

I had a question from one of my readers recently asking me if I could give some helpful tips on running an Etsy shop successfully.  So I have decided to make a post about it!

25 Etsy Shop Handmade Promo Buttons Badges

Successfully Running an Etsy Shop

There are three main points to keep in mind when selling handmade things on Etsy. I like to think of them as the "Three P's".


   As the owner of an online shop, the only window the world has to your wares is through five photos and a description on your Etsy listing.  Each listing on Etsy allows you to upload up to five photos, so use all five. Take shots of every angle, detail, and feature. You want to make the potential customer feel like they have just picked up your item, turned it around, looked inside, felt the texture, etc. Make your photos look professional. So many times I see photos that look blurry and aren't lit well. Take artistic photos. I can't tell you how much more appealing it is to me when I see, say, a beautiful doll wearing a handmade dress propped up outside by some flowers with soft sunlight illuminating her figure, instead of a ratty haired, barefooted fright leaning against a dirty wall in artificial indoor lighting wearing her dress for sale. While both these photos could be showcasing the same identical dress, which one would you be more quick to buy? Take a look at these two photos below.

Lace-Edged Drawers               Historical American Girl Petticoat and Bloomers for Addy, Felicity, Cecile, Marie Grace, Kirsten
These photos were both taken by me for different Etsy listings I have sold in the past.  But each photo is showcasing virtually the same thing: a pair of white bloomers for an American Girl doll.

Now, which one do you think is more appealing?  The one on the left isn't necessarily bad, but it isn't very artistic. Look at the one on the right.  That shows the same bloomers, yet it looks like a picture you might see in an AG catalog (well, close to it rather :).  Does the one on the right look more professional to you??

And just because I want to, I'm going to show you two of my favorite photos I have taken yet of some of my doll outfits:

 Colonial Polonaise Winter Gown with Cloak
 This is pretty good, a little washed out, but you'll notice you can see her legs through her skirt slightly. Gotta watch out for the little things! Nonetheless, this one sold within a day of listing. ;)

Anne of Avonlea Schoolteacher Ensemble
This one is another top favorite. She was my little Anne of Avonlea. :)

   Writing your description for your item is just as important as taking good photos! When writing your description, pretend you're talking to the customer. Type out all that you might say in praise of your wares, as if the person is standing right in front of you at your craft table, wanting to know all about this beautiful piece of craftsmanship you have created.

   Let's look at two different descriptions I have done in the past.

Here's one I did for this little Swedish outfit:

Alpine Set - for 18 inch American Girl Doll

"This adorable little outfit reminds us of the clothing worn by girls and women in Sweden. Includes peasant blouse, full skirt, and pink pinafore." 

   Come on, Elizabeth, you can do better than that. While it clearly states what I was selling, there is no eloquence, no character, no story behind the outfit.  You want to tell your item's story.  Now let's look at another description I did for this civil war era dress:

 A Little Women Christmas: "Jo March" Holiday Dress
 "This Christmas, I have decided to make four dresses from the civil war era. Each dress is named after one of the four sisters in the well-loved classic, Little Women. The dress will resemble the spirit and character of that sister.

So, to start off the collection, here we have the second oldest girl in the family; Jo March. She is spunky, day-dreamy, strong-headed and always has a story or play sprouting in her mind. Her dress is made in a burgundy stiff cotton, with a prim white cotton collar of imported lace from the Netherlands, a black and gold cameo fixed at her throat, black braid around her sleeves and hem, and a voluminous black silk bow at her waist which ties beautifully in the back. The pictures show the dress a bit more maroon-toned, but it is more cranberry/burgundy in real life.

Click here for the perfect petticoat to fluff out the skirt:
Simply my favorite dress yet! I almost don't want to send it off, but I am sure that there is a little Jo March somewhere out there who would be honored to wear it during this beautiful, festive, old-fashioned season of Christmas!"

   There you see a real story.  Don't you feel like you've just had a conversation with me about my Jo March dress? Note that I even included a link to another item that would compliment this piece. That is a good tool to use to move people around your shop to see other things you offer.


    When I first started selling my pieces on Etsy, I thought "The cheaper, the better!"  Slim sales starting out taught me that that was not the case.  On Etsy, people are willing to pay top dollar for your handmade merchandise.  To them it is worth much more than something similar you could find in a store.  Think instead "The higher the price, the higher the sales!"  Once I bumped up my prices, I cannot tell you how my sales began to pick up.  Suddenly I was getting $65 for a doll dress I had once tried to bargain off for $20.  People are not looking for deals on Etsy.  If they want that they'll go to Ebay.  Etsy is different than Ebay for a reason.  I have never sold my handcrafts on Ebay because I know I can get much more for them on the Etsy craft venue.  Think of Etsy as an upscale craft show, and Ebay as a garage sale.


   Here I am talking about YOU.  You are the proprietor of your shop.  All sales and customer relations go through you, so have a cheerful attitude when dealing with your customers.  You are doing this because it is enjoyable for you, so make it an enjoyable experience for them!  Again, I'm turning to past experience when I say that I have had many experiences with grumpy sellers.  I buy almost as much as I sell on Etsy, so when I work with people, whether I'm buying or selling, I can easily pick up on their attitude behind that computer screen.  Some quite frankly just seem like they wish they were doing anything but working with you. And that's not how a customer should feel. When I work with my customers, I try to be as happy, cheerful, and accommodating as I can. I always keep them up to date on whether their pieces are finished being made (if it was a custom order), if there are any concerns I answer them in detail, and I send them prompt shipping notifications once their package has shipped. I always send along a little note in their order saying thank you and telling them how much I appreciated their business. Etsy has a feature where you can leave feedback for your customers... never neglect to keep up on this! Each sale you make can get feedback, so give them a plus and tell them what a great customer they were. They will leave positive feedback for you in return if they were pleased with your service.  Just keep in mind that what you are doing is fun, so let that show in your communications with your valued customers!

   Etsy is about sharing your creations with people, so take a chance at this wonderful opportunity and open up your little workshop to the world!  One last point I would like to make is on the importance of an Etsy shop/blog partnership.  Keeping a blog which coincides with your shop is very valuable.  It lets your customers get to know you even more personally, what you do, and what you make.  Direct your Etsy customers to your blog wherever you can and vice versa.  If you ever have any questions please drop me a note by emailing me at orchardhouse(at)woh(dot)rr(dot)com.  I have been in business online for three years, 1 and a half years being on Etsy.  Before that I sold my handmade things locally. 

   I hope that this post will answer some common questions and give you a little helpful advice.  Happy crafting!


Noelle said...

I totally love ur blog!!! It is sooo creative and beautiful!! Do you think you could stop by mine? I would love it ; )


Noelle : )

Hana - Marmota said...

While I do not own an Etsy shop and have never bought anything on Etsy yet (or on any equivalent of it), I do look sometimes, and as a potential customer I must add my two cents to the description part: I also want it to be informative. Don't get carried away with your inspiration and such: it's nice to be told what the creation represents, but I want to know what the thing is actually like, too, so some succintness in that area does not hurt. You, Elisabeth, strike a nice balance there, I think, but some sellers really do get carried away by their "creative spirit" and in paiting the perfect mental picture of the item they completely forget to mention the materials or sizing, for example.

Miss Elizabeth said...

I agree with you completely. Many sellers get too carried away with the whimsical inspiration side of their item and in the end I, the potential buyer, find myself searching for basic information like measurements or quantity. Thanks for your insight!

Miss Elizabeth said...


Thank you for stopping by and I'm so glad you like my blog. :) I just visited yours and it is beautiful! You are a very inspiring young lady. Keep up the great posts!

God bless,
Miss Elizabeth

Noelle said...

You are welcome! you are soo sweet! Thanks for all the encouragement, i would love to hear from you more!!!


Noelle : )

Treskie said...

Hey! Just stumbled upon your blog.... Quite fancy it, indeedy. :) And then, reading your profile I discovered, WOOT! She's Catholic too! *happily dances off to click the follow button.*

God bless!

Hannah said...

Elizabeth, what a well-written and interesting post! I had fun reading it.:) It really makes sense to try to have a little conversationn with potential customers like you said.:) Could I ask one more questions about your Etsy policies~ how did you let people know about your store?

Miss Elizabeth said...

Hello Hannah!

Sorry it has taken me so long to respond to this. School... *sigh*

I already had a small circle of customers before I opened my Etsy shop, so I started by emailing them about it. Then I joined some teams on Etsy which increased my visibility. I also keep up on favoriting other sellers' items, and adding people to my "circle". Staying active on Etsy and interacting with other sellers and buyers will increase your publicity. Of course, once I started this blog, it channeled a lot of traffic to my shop as well.
Thanks for your question! :)

God bless,
Miss Elizabeth

Jessica Cangiano said...

Hi sweet dear, I read this post a couple of days ago, and have thought about it often since, so I wanted to come back and comment on it. I've never sold on etsy, though I very much hope to one day, and when I do, I'll most likely be selling handmade items, too. I'm the type of person who generally researches something for months (or even years) before jumping into it, and I've been reading various posts and articles regarding advice on selling on etsy for quite some time now. Without a doubt, I think this is one of the very best I've encountered, and think etsy would do well to link to it! :)

You creaate absolutely excellent work, and if I collected AG dolls, I'd definitely buy from an awesome, professionally minded seller like you any day.

♥ Jessica

Pepper and Spice said...

Dear Miss Elizabeth,

I appreciate this detailed post to my question. I am impressed with your Esty shop and your accomplishments. It must feel wonderful achieve business success. I would love to start a shop, but it is quite intimidating attempting to compete with so much talent, such as yours, that I see on Etsy.

The reader above is so right in her assessment of your post and your excellent and professional attitude.

I truly admire you.

~ Spice

Miss Elizabeth said...

Dear Spice,

Thank you for your compliments! It was a lot of fun writing this post. One thing to remember is: no matter how good other crafters are, none of them can create something quite like you can. Everyone has their own unique style, which no one can duplicate. So, while I completely understand that seeing other crafters who have been doing this for a long time can be intimidating (for me as well!), don't forget that no two crafters are alike, and your creations are unique to you. Whether someone plans to have an Etsy shop as a little side hobby, or work on it full time, each shop is special, and yours would be too! I hope you at least give it a try sometime and see how you like it. If you have any other questions don't be afraid to ask!

God bless,
Miss Elizabeth

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