Advice for new Etsy sellers

If you’re thinking about opening an Etsy shop, first of all yay! Second of all, it is easy, but not that easy. I thought it might be helpful to others to read some of the things I’ve learned from turning my hobbies into a business.

1. Make sure your user name is the name you want for your shop. Turns out you can’t change it! I accidentally picked the username I use for everything else, and ended up having to start over.

2. Do a LOT of homework. Talk to other people who’ve opened shops about how they handle things like pricing items and shipping. Spend a few hours on the discussion boards reading FAQs related to what you will sell. Look at other sellers’ shops and see how they price things and what their photos look like. Are there already 50 people selling the exact same thing? Maybe you should tweak your product a little. For me, I spent a lot of time making candles I would never sell, just so I could test the scents, the colors, the containers, the burn times. I wish I’d sent more test packages so I’d know how much shipping cost, and what kind of packing materials were best. You don’t want to find out that stuff the hard way.

3. Order free shipping supplies from USPS.gov. That’s right, if you get USPS priority mail boxes, they’re free! Of course, then you have to use priority mail, but that’s what I was going to use anyway. I tend to use smaller boxes I have around the house (to keep with my reused theme) or bubble mailers for less delicate items. For that kind of thing, buy in bulk when you can.

4. Be a detailed bookkeeper. First, know that you need to pay sales tax on items purchased in your state (at least that’s the case in Iowa, check with your state). For this you’ll need a sales tax permit, and again, I can only speak for Iowa, but that was just one easy form to fill out and mail in. Second, you will need to pay a listing fee for each item, plus a percentage of the item sold. And if you are using PayPal (which you should), you’ll have to pay a fee for each PayPal transaction. That’s a lot of fees! If your business becomes profitable, you will also have to pay taxes on the income. But ha, I’m a ways from that point. To make this easier, I have just made an Excel chart with all of these amounts, and I fill it in each time I make a sale. I separate out the wholesale orders because those don’t require me to pay sales tax.

5. Know when you are in over your head. I am not a designer by any stretch of the imagination. I know this. So I pay someone else to do it, and she does a beautiful job. It costs me money, but after the initial investment, it’s not much at all.

6. Above all else, take a good picture of your items. This will take some practice, probably, but it is sooo worth it. Following stuff I’d read on other blogs I created a light box so that I could shoot photos at night. Even with lamps, it created darkish, grainy photos. So I deleted them all, and took them again. I can’t speak for others, but for me, I just wait until I can shoot in natural light. It always creates beautiful, sharp photos with my Canon digital camera, and good photos sell items. I use the macro feature a lot to get really close to certain items, and try to include 3-5 photos for each.

7. If you sell clothing items, get a form. One tip I read from other sellers was to not put your items on a person for photos, in case people don’t like the idea of something being already worn. I got a styrofoam head for my hats, and I hope to get a full dress form for the scarves someday.

8. Get on Twitter! The very first item I ever sold came from someone who was following me on Twitter. And it was the most expensive thing in my shop. Since then I’ve sold other things just by mentioning new things I’ve added to the shop. This is also a great way to meet other people who craft and could possibly promote you.

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