Eight Things I Learned from Opening an Etsy Shop
This March will mark the one-year anniversary of my decision to turn a passion into a business. My mother and I taught ourselves how to knit when I was eight years old. I absolutely loved that I could create something out of just a pile of yarn. Since then, I have honed my skills and experimented with new stitches and writing my own patterns. It got to the point where I was making so many things, there were mountains of hats and scarves lying around the house. I decided it was silly to continue making things without someone to wear them.
Without really knowing what I was doing, I launched an Etsy shop, MelroseMolded, that features my hand-knit goods. I stand here now, after much trial and error, with a rich cache of knowledge gained through experience. These tips are tailored for Etsy businesses, but I hope anyone looking to start a business can gain some insight as well.
1. Utilize Social Media
Instagram brought MelroseMolded its first customer quite by mistake. Topping off hats with faux fur pom poms had become a huge craze in the Instagram knitting community. Rather than purchasing some from another maker (since they were quite expensive), I bought some faux fur and learned how to make them myself. After posting some pictures of my own hats topped with the pom poms, one of my followers reached out to inquire where I purchased them from. I hadn’t planned on selling pom poms in my Etsy shop, but I offered to list some for her and received an order the next day. Faux fur pom poms have now become a best-seller of MelroseMolded, and all thanks to one Instagram follower.
2. The Nitty Gritty of How to Run Social Media
Social media is an important marketing tool, but it takes a lot of work. People expect posts every one to two days and if you don’t deliver, they unfollow. The type of pictures you post are important too. The ones pictured above have received some of the highest likes on MelroseMolded’s Instagram account. Pictures that are artfully staged with good lighting always attract more likes and, hopefully, more followers.
Consistently dark, lackluster photos will also result in a drop in followers. In addition to photo content, making the account interactive through running polls, asking for opinions, and running contests or giveaways is a great way to keep followers and gain new ones.
3. Create Quality Listings
Creating a good listing takes a lot of time, but it’s worth the results. Etsy allows up to ten photos per listing; use all ten. Customers want to see every angle of the product before purchasing it.
Also, provide as much information as possible in the written item description. Customers prefer a longer description, even if some of the information is just general facts about the shop. A longer description helps them feel like they know what they’re buying.
4. Reviews/Prior Sales Matter
I’m sorry to say until your shop has a few sales and positive reviews, business will probably be slow. Etsy allows customers to see prior sales a shop has made and reviews prior customers leave. Customers are almost always afraid to be the first to buy anything, which is why reviews and prior sales matter. On the bright side, it only takes one brave soul to break that barrier!
5. Be Unique
Create a statement product that no one else sells. If another shop with more sales and reviews offers the same product, why should a customer buy from you? Be original and create something that defines you as an individual. For example, I noticed on Instagram that most other makers have a staple pattern that they wrote themselves. They then sell this pattern for customers who want to knit it themselves and sell finished products from this pattern for customers who want to purchase a completed good. I decided to follow the same business model and created several original designs that can only be purchased in my shop.
6. Add a Personal Touch to Each Order
Customers appreciate a personal touch. It lets them know that their business is valued. Try including a thank-you note with their purchase, wrapping the item in tissue paper and ribbon, or drawing a small decoration on the shipping package. Customers want to know you care about their satisfaction.
7. Take It Offline
Realize that while Etsy is a great platform for small businesses, so many more customers can be reached offline through craft fairs and local businesses. MelroseMolded attended its first craft fair this past fall; it was a huge success. Additionally, my first selling venture wasn’t actually knit goods on Etsy. I also make pottery. My hairdresser and long-time friend Tim Dopsovic co-owns Altered Images Hair Studio with his business partner Joan Menarde-Dasilva. They kindly allowed me to display some of my pottery in their studio. Despite the fact that a hair studio seems an odd place to sell pottery, it took off. Their clients loved my work and began purchasing it. Both of these experiences go to show that limiting a business only to Etsy will miss a much larger audience of customers.
8. Realize It Takes Time
Don’t get frustrated if your shop doesn’t take off right away. Nearing the close of my first year, I have thirty-five sales. Is that number disappointing compared to other sellers who have immense success their first year? Of course. But it’s also better than where I started a year ago. My biggest tip: appreciate small success.