Saturday, February 15, 2014


This month, I celebrated an anniversary with Etsy. It was our 4 year anniversary. Me as a seller, Etsy as my marketplace.

I run 2 shops. Superkid Capes™ has close to 4000 sales on Etsy-which amounts to nearly 10,000 actual capes and accessories being sold around the world. Elizabeth Brooke Designs has near 700 sales-which equals 1000 patterns, baby items, and scarves having made their way around the county. In its 4 years of existenceSuperkid Capes™ has had the honor to be featured a number of times in "Etsy Finds", magazines, blogs, on Zulily, and television shows.

In my time as an Etsy seller, I have had a variety of conversations with shop owners just starting out, makers of things who are toying with the idea of taking their products to Etsy, and people wanting to know, “Should I open an Etsy shop?” I have complied a list of questions to ask yourself if you are thinking of joining the Etsy community as a seller. Or maybe you already opened a shop, but could use some reevaluating to see success. Here are 5 things to think about before you jump into the Etsy Seller pool.

1. Do your research
Whether you have an idea for something you’d like to make and sell, or you have been making something for a long time, research online is essential for creating an E-commerce business. Just because you list it on Etsy, does not necessarily mean buyers will come.  If you don’t have a strategy behind your shop, you will not be successful. Do your research on the web, through google searches, image searches, and pinterest, and on Etsy itself. These are some of the questions you should answer during the research process. 

  • Is there a demand for what you are making? 
  • Have you found items similar to yours for sale?
  • If yes, what are your competitors selling their items for? Are their items selling? 
  • If no, why don’t you think there are items similar to what you are making out there? 
  • If you don’t see anything like what you make, why do you think that is? 
  • Would your items meet a need if they were available?  If yes, who specifically would they meet a need for?
  • Would customers be able to imagine via a picture and description, what they would do with your item or use your item for? 
  • Do you know your product well? Meaning, do you know what it costs you to make it, how much time it takes, and what you would need to charge to make a profit? And the icing on the cake, would someone be willing to spend what you want to charge for that item?
The answers to the above questions are key in determining if you should move forward with your idea on Etsy. 
2. Originality 
Originality is defined as, "a freshness of aspect, design or style.” While yours may not be the only item available in a specific genre, what differentiates your product from the rest of the crowd? You need to be able to answer the following questions to determine if your item can stand out:
  • What exactly makes your product stand out? 
  • After doing some research, you might determine that you do have competition. If that’s the case, what would cause a customer to purchase your item over your competitor’s?
  • What do you offer that your competitor does not offer? 
  • What makes your item one of a kind, what is the draw? Is it the style? Price? Quick turn around? 
  • If you determine there’s not something out there like what you are making, how will you draw in your customer?
Once you have done a sufficient amount of research and have a clear understanding of your product's draw, you need to think about who is going to buy this amazing creation. 
3. Target Market
All forms of business are targeting someone. Your target market should be who you envision being interested in your items, and who you imagine becoming your customers. If you don’t have a clear idea of who would buy your product, chances are, your product won’t be purchased. Identifying your target market, also helps you determine the direction to take your business and how to expand your product line someday. Think about the following:
  • Who do you envision as a customer? What is their age, sex, occupation, etc.?
  • Why would they purchase this item from you?
  • How will your target market find you? Will they be online? On social media? On Etsy? Will you spread the word via referrals and word of mouth?
  • Is the nature of your product something that can create repeat customers within your market?
4. Time is Money
What kind of time are you willing to devote to your shop? If you don’t have the time to devote to creating and maintaing a shop, you will not be successful. The most successful Etsy shops are maintained regularly, regardless of the amount of sales coming in. What does that mean exactly?

That means that a great deal of time and effort has gone into creating and choosing quality images to use to showcase the items for sale. The seller of a successful shop has a current and up to date shop announcement that is welcoming and informative. The seller has well written item descriptions and strategically chosen key tag words and phrases for each listing. Thought has gone into creating the shop banner and shop description. The seller has taken time to create policies, shipping guidelines, and an about page. This is what a well created shop looks like. 

But it doesn’t end there. Once a shop is created, there is the actual running of the shop. That means checking in on the shop regularly, answering conversations, making changes to listings, responding to sales, checking shop stats to see if people are visiting the shop. That means asking questions when viewing shop stats:
  • What do you notice about your traffic? 
  • Are people all viewing the same listing? 
  • Are people favoriting one item in particular? 
  • What are the search terms people are using to arrive at your shop? 
  • Is there outside traffic coming from other locations? 
This kind of “feedback” can help determine what direction you go with the items in your shop. This is the kind of regular self evaluation that a successful Etsy seller engages in. It also means that if nothing is selling, and you are getting very little traffic, its time to reevaluate things:
  • Is there really a demand for what you are making? 
  • If you believe there is a demand, are you having trouble being found? 
  • Is your pricing too high? Should you try running a special or sale? Would that be something your target market would be interested in? 
  • Are you promoting your shop elsewhere to drive traffic to your shop? 
  • How are your competitors doing? 
  • If it does not appear that there is a demand for what you are selling, do you need to reevaluate how or what you are selling?
Some of the most successful entrepreneurs have tirelessly gone back to the drawing board many times before finding that winning idea. Just like most things in life, time is related to success. It is impossible to have a successful shop without investing time into it. 

5. "Etsy-style"
There are all types of creations that people sell at craft fairs or to friends-that work great off Etsy-that just don’t work on Etsy.  Along with doing research for your product, ask yourself how familiar you are with Etsy, the marketplace. Have you purchased anything from any Etsy sellers before? Take a good look around Etsy and get a feel for the place. Etsy is a handmade marketplace with its own style and vibe. Etsy is not Amazon. Etsy is not Ebay. And Etsy is not your local craft fair. In answering all the above questions, you should be able to determine more clearly if Etsy would be a good fit for you. Remember:
  • Do your research and determine if your product is something people want or meets a need. 
  • Know exactly how much time and money it takes to make your product and if you could make a profit. 
  • Ask yourself what would make someone buy your product over similar items out there. 
  • Determine who your target market is, how they might find you, and if they would be willing to buy your product at the price you are wanting to sell it for. 
  • Decide if what you are making is a hobby, or if it something you can make a business out of. If you want to make selling your items a real business, that means investing some serious time, commitment, late nights, and being consistent and constant in maintaining your shop. Are you willing to do that?
  • After analyzing your product, pricing, market, and potential buyer do you feel confident Etsy is the place for you to set up shop?
If you answered no, take some time to reevaluate your goals and your products. What are you wanting to achieve? What are your goals?

If your answer is yes, Etsy is the place for you, welcome to the family! In addition to setting up and maintaining your shop, it is also your job to continue making yourself more knowledgeable on your product, market, the etsy community, and social media. A great place to start is the Etsy Seller Handbook.  Its hard work, but if you love what you are making and doing, and you do it well, opening a shop might just be one of the best decisions you ever made. 

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