It’s a sleepy Monday morning as a university fine arts student lugs her backpack up three flights of stairs, precariously balancing a mocha frappuccino atop her phone and keys. She sets down her bag at the entrance to the ceramics room; other students are already there working on their creations. She puts on an apron, stained with dry and cracking clay, and selects a pottery wheel at which to work for the next few hours. She slowly spins a ball of clay to life into a delicate bowl. Over the next few days, she glazes it, fires it, and sets it on a classroom shelf for it to rest. The next day, a classmate is gazing at the bowl, then makes their way over to her. The student asks if they could purchase the bowl after their professor grades it. The girl happily agrees and then begins to think, “Could I actually…sell my work?”
Perhaps you have asked this same question. Do you have a talent for drawing? Painting? Mixing herbal teas? Inventing new fragrances and perfumes? Maybe even classical book binding? Whatever your hobby is, it should never be understated. Those skills, and the things you can make with them could mean everything to someone else. So, if you can create something, you should consider sharing it with the people.
Yet, that is often easier said than done. The majority of us are not sitting on a golden nest egg that we can use to buy an office space, begin a supply chain, or hire a team to work for us. Most first-time entrepreneurs are going to be attempting this endeavor on their own, or with a small group of friends or family. This is why having a system that streamlines the process of pricing and getting your products in front of consumers’ eyes can be invaluable to a young business. Allow us to introduce you to Etsy, a service that can do just that. Take a few minutes to consider what talents you think you might be able to turn into a sapling business, then read on to learn how to dive into the world of Etsy. We’re going to be breaking this down into five digestible steps.
1. Creating Your Product
This is a given, but before you can go to market, you need a product that you can sell! Here is where those few minutes of self-reflection are going to come in handy. Were you able to think up something that you would enjoy creating and selling? Then you need to start building up a small stockpile of the product. If you are planning to have your business be one dictated by commissions, where the customer directs the design, it would be a good idea to start off with a stock run of products so that consumers can get to know you and your brand. Customers are far more likely to want a commissioned piece from a creator whose work they have seen and love than someone without a portfolio of purchasable work for them to get acquainted with.
Let’s use buttons as an example. If you are opening up a button shop, it would be a good idea to craft a stockpile of about 75-100 buttons. How about drawings? If you are an artist and are selling five designs, go ahead and have a few prints made of each so that you can feel confidently stocked. This is where you are going to see your first costs of business: initial supplies. These supplies will either fall under the category of product manufacturing or business supplies. Since this product is going to be accessible to all those on the internet, you are going to need to be prepared to ship your items either around your country, or the world if you choose! Be sure to pick up some shipping envelopes, boxes, packing tape, or whatever you will need to keep your product safe during shipment (we will be talking about shipping labels later). The funding for this step is going to be coming out of your pocket, so be sure that you are able to make financial ends meet before committing!
Remember: Commissions are a wonderful and uniquely personalized approach to business. However, it is a good idea to establish yourself with a set of products before you open up to commission-based production!
2. Personal Branding
When you open an Etsy shop, you are starting your own small company, and as such, your company needs a name. Pick a company name that encompasses your personality and makes you unique. Then, start branching out in creating your brand. You will need to choose a color palette, a signature font, a logo, and develop a quick slogan, motto, or description.
Let’s think ahead a bit and consider the shipping process. When you ship your items, it is a great idea to include branded materials in the shipment. Whether this is through bright business cards, stamped or personalized cards, branded stickers, or boxes with the company logo printed on them, this can assist your outreach and marketing efforts.
Remember: Prior to your Etsy shop going live, you are going to have to put in an investment. You are responsible for paying for initial production materials, shipping supplies, and a small listing fee on Etsy’s site out of your own pocketbook.
3. Setting Up Shop
The moment you have been waiting for is here! It’s time to bring your shop to life. Now it is time to activate the detail-oriented area of your brain, this process needs to be approached with a fine-toothed comb. Nerd Wallet has summarized this process into eight steps:
- Create an Etsy account.
- Set your shop preferences.
- Choose your Etsy shop name.
- Add items to your shop.
- Choose your payment preferences.
- Set up billing.
- Open your shop.
- Customize your shop.
We could go into great detail regarding each of these steps, but the Etsy system is quite intuitive, and will guide you through the process. However, there are two important things you need to know regarding funding: 1.) There is a listing fee of $0.20 for each item you put up on your store’s page. 2.) You need to consider the potential costs of shipping and supplies when you are setting the price of your items. The goal is to make a profit from your business, but it is best to start small. Price your items so that you will receive enough profit to produce another replenishment of your product, and perhaps a little left over. As your business grows, you will begin to have a higher degree of freedom regarding pricing.
People naturally have short attention spans, but put us in front of screens, and it gets even shorter. With so many items to click and swipe, grabbing attention on online marketplaces such as Etsy is like finding a needle in a haystack: not impossible, but in no way easy. This is why you need to frontload work in this area to make yourself marketable. Make it a goal to climb the search results order with your products. This can be achieved by accurate titles, decisive tag usage, and consumer interaction, and nothing can increase consumer interaction quite like a pop of color or a unique description line.
Consider also your brand outside of Etsy. It is highly unlikely that people are going to stumble across your shop by chance when it is young, so they are going to need to be made aware in another way. How, you ask? Two words: Social. Media. Make it a point to have an active account for your brand on all of the major platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok. An often overlooked, yet incredibly popular, medium is YouTube. Create a video showing off your products, or perhaps a statement piece on what your brand is about. Do make sure that the characteristics visible on your shop’s page (i.e. colors, title, slogan, etc.) are consistent across all platforms. If you have a little leftover funding from starting up, you might also consider utilizing marketing services on social apps. For a fee, the app will promote your post for a given amount of time, typically 12 or 24 hours.
Remember: Do not forget about your social accounts! It can be so easy to slip out of a posting schedule, but you must strive for steadiness to increase engagement. The best times to post will vary based on the platform, but do your research to make sure you are active during those times. Here’s a few hints from StatusBrew to get you started:
Facebook: 9:00 a.m. and between 1:00 and 3:00 p.m.
Instagram: Between 10 a.m. and 3:00 p.m.
Twitter: 9:00 a.m.
5. Shipping and Restocking
So, you’ve received an order. Well done! A customer has found your product and wants to invest. Give yourself a well-earned pat on the back. But, don’t get too caught up in the joy – you need to get that person’s items in the mail. Using Etsy, you have two choices when it comes to shipping labels. You can either take care of it on your own, or use Etsy’s Shipping Label service. If you choose to use the shipping label service, you will take care of the shipping process entirely from your shop. You will purchase a label (either with or without shipping), print it, and you are ready to go. Etsy will mark the item as shipped for you. This service is offered in partnership with the United States Postal Service, FedEx, and Canada Post.
We will reiterate again here that shipping can be expensive, and that it is important to consider this cost when pricing your items. Etsy also offers a Free Shipping Guarantee for stores to use for customers and stores active in the United States. If active on a store, the guarantee assures that items will ship free if a customer’s order totals $35 or more and ships within the United States. Stores who offer this option are often boosted in search results, and also appear when customers are looking only for items with free shipping.
Once your order is packaged and labeled, all that is left is to get it into the hands of the postal workers. You can either schedule a pickup with your mail carrier, or you can drop your packages off at the post office. Remember that they are already labeled, so they are ready to simply be dropped off at the package collection point in your local post office (There will be a similar process for FedEx services). Be sure that you stay in contact with your customer and answer any questions they may have regarding shipping to the best of your ability and knowledge. This will build rapport with your clientele and help them feel comfortable in potentially purchasing from you again in the future!
Now, it’s time to restock. Running a successful business is a continuous cycle, product depletion followed by product replenishment. Consider the time necessary to gather your materials and produce your items. Stay on top of this and plan ahead to make sure that you aren’t missing out on any sales.
That very same fine arts student has now graduated, moved out of her college apartment, and has founded a studio space where she spins new clay creations into existence. Little did she know that by selling one of her projects to her classmates, she would be set on the path to running her own small business and paying her bills by means of her artistic spirit. Perhaps such entrepreneurship is the path for you? If you had an idea sprout in your mind in the process of reading this, we would encourage you to nurture it and see how it might flourish.