Before I opened my Etsy shop, I did a lot of research to see where to start. Are you in the same boat as I was? If I’m being honest, I could write about this for days. I experimented with my shop a lot to find what worked.
Getting your first sale can feel like a daunting task. There are a lot of sellers already on Etsy, selling everything from print on demand products to digital art.
Although it feels intimidating, remind yourself of the opportunity that exists. Etsy attracts millions of online shoppers, and is a great platform for your business or side hustle.
A lot of the information that is available online will be helpful for you. What is critical is knowing what the really important stuff is- what you should know now.
Money is time, and you won’t want to spend months waiting for your first sale.
When my phone lit up with my first sale after just 3 days of opening my shop, I was ecstatic! I felt like it had to be a fluke- how could this have happened so soon? But as the sales continued in the weeks ahead, I figured I had done something right.
Although I wish someone had given me the answers upfront (before the hours of research), now I can share what I know with you.
Where to Start
If you’re ready to make money with your Etsy shop, you need to start with a solid foundation. This initial work will pay off down the road- you’ll be so grateful you did it now.
When customers land on a shop that is put together, organized, and answers all of their questions upfront, they will feel confident in making a purchase. There’s a good chance they could become your first customer!
Once you have this foundation in place, you can focus on the really fun stuff (like being creative and seeing new sales come in!).
Why You Need a Niche
Do you have lots of ideas of what you can sell on Etsy? If this sounds like you, welcome to the club- when we feel creative, all kinds of ideas will start flowing!
However, people value buying from people they can trust.
If your shop has one main focus- whether that be t-shirts, earrings, or digital art- customers will believe that you are knowledgeable about this product.
If you can, narrow it down even more.
Instead of just selling t-shirts, what about selling t-shirts for bridal parties specifically? When shoppers land in your corner of Etsy, they will see that you have expertise in the item they are looking for. With their confidence in you as a seller, they are more likely to buy your item.
Without realizing it, you probably do the same thing when you’re shopping for an item. This is the basic idea behind finding your niche, and how it can get you closer to your first sale.
You will want your customers to be confident in you as a seller, in order to sell your items.
How to Build a Shop Like a Pro
Did you know that setting up your shop policies helps to build that confidence? I know, this doesn’t sound like a fun step, but hear me out. Take some time to review your shop policies and update them.
Will you be accepting refunds on items? What about exchanges or order cancellations? Make sure that your Etsy shop reflects exactly how you will handle each of these situations (these questions will come up, and are just the reality of selling online).
Don’t be afraid of being strict, either. I set up my shop policies to say that I did not accept returns, exchanges, or cancellations- at all. Not only was this listed in my shop policies, but I also put this in the description for every listing, and I put an image in every listing that stated this (I love Canva for making professional-looking images like this).
Since I knew I would be selling t-shirts, I put a size chart in every listing and explained that customers could determine their correct size before placing an order. Show your customers that you are there to help them make the right decision, and to hopefully save a lot of time and headaches in the future. Plus, you will look super professional (especially compared to some of your competition).
On the more fun side of things, you will also need a stunning logo and shop banner. This will make your shop look professional and ready for customers. I also highly recommend Canva for this- you can edit the size of the images you create, and can add custom text and images to make it your own.
Posting your First Listing
So you want to sell that awesome creation of yours? It’s time to get out there and publish a listing!
In order for an Etsy listing to be successful, one thing really needs to happen. Your potential customers need to actually find it in their searches. If it can come up first in their search (ie. page one of the search results), even better! And if it’s more eye-grabbing than the listings around it? Home run! Let’s dive straight into how you can make this happen for you.
As an Etsy seller, you need lots of eyes on your listings to break through and make sales.
You need to get in front of as many people as possible, so the people who love your items can find them.
To start with, you will need to understand SEO — search engine optimization. How can you optimize the keywords you are using in your listings (this includes your titles, descriptions, and your tags), so that they come up in searches? Think about what someone might enter in the search bar when they are looking for that item.
For example, when I was posting a listing for a t-shirt that said “Essential Worker”, I used words like Essential Worker T-shirt, Quarantine T-shirt, and Nurse T-shirt in my title, tags, and listing description.
Act like one of your customers- enter your item name in the search bar on Etsy, and see the first few listings that appear (they are likely selling the most). What keywords are top sellers putting in their titles and descriptions? This is great inspiration for your own listings.
Put the name of what you are selling in your shop description too (ie. t-shirts or buttons), as this helps items rank better in search results. Here is a more detailed article to show you more about SEO.
Bonus tip- you can use 13 tags per listing, please use them all, even if you are not certain what to put! Items with more tags come up in more searches. I always use all 13 tags.
I won’t lie, the world of online sales is a competitive one.
Remember- the name of the game is to get in front of your customers.
Creating Eye-Catching Images
So let’s say you have used great keywords in your listing, and it is getting views. Do you want shoppers to click on your listing, instead of the ones around it? You will absolutely need great photos to do this. I’m not saying you need to buy a camera or be a professional photographer to get there- but there are tools you can use to have amazing photos.
If you are selling hand-made items, check out presets and filters to make your photos look more professional (actually, you can find these for sale on Etsy, too).
Are you selling print-on-demand items, like t-shirts or mugs? I recommend searching Etsy for mock-ups; these are visually pleasing pictures of plain tshirts (or mugs, etc.), that you can put your designs on.
I use the Over app for this- it’s completely free and easy to use. You can create images with transparent backgrounds for free, too (ie. for creating t-shirt designs and placing those designs on your t-shirt mock-ups).
All of my sales in the beginning came from the items that I decided to use mock-up images for, so I highly recommend this step. Plus, they are inexpensive and easy to download from Etsy.
If you can, you should also post the maximum amount of images for each listing. Customers love seeing items in different ways, or from different perspectives.
How to Promote your Listings
When you’re a new Etsy shop, with few listings and no sales or reviews, it is harder to compete with the shops with hundreds of listings and reviews. Your listings may not be ranking high enough in search results to be seen by customers.
You do have one trick up your sleeve, though- Etsy Ads. Don’t worry- you can set a budget (my budget was $1 a day) and can turn advertising off at any time.
Using Etsy Ads will prioritize your listing in search results, and you only pay when someone actually clicks on your listing and wants to view it. If you want to advertise all of your listings in the beginning, that is okay- but as your store grows, I recommend only advertising your top-selling listings (once you know what they are), so they get the attention they deserve.
One last thing I need to mention- Etsy loves new listings. If you want to rank higher in search results, consistently posting new listings will be your new best friend.
You won’t want to burn out while doing this, however.
Know your limits- I had about 15 items in my shop when I landed my first sale, but I wasn’t posting 5 new items a day forever. Once I had around 30 items, I tapered off and posted a few times a week.
I do believe that my consistent posting in the first few days really helped me out. But you want to make sure you are posting quality items over quantity, always.
I was relieved when I found Etsy On Sale- and I really wish I knew about this from day one. It re-lists your older listings automatically over a set period of time. What does this mean? Your items are ranking higher in search results, but you’re not experiencing creative burnout.
In order to get my very first Etsy sale in 3 days (eeek- still feels exciting!), I focused on being competitive.
I made my store look professional and open for business.
I focused on a niche market and used detailed listings with pretty photos.
And I advertised my listings to make sure people were seeing all of my hard work!
Think about where you are at with your shop. Are you using every avenue you can to shine and attract customers? Although it is competitive out there, you can get that first sale before you know it.
You just need to get your work in front of the customer who wants it, grab their attention, and impress them with your professionalism.