One of the benefits of the digital age is that entrepreneurs who make handmade goods or want to sell a product can easily reach potential customers around the world.
Whether it’s quality and creative pottery, monogrammed bags, or unique apparel, e-commerce allows you to run a retail shop online if you can’t afford (or don’t desire) to open a physical storefront.
For many new entrepreneurs or individuals who have been in business for a long time without an online shop, thinking about which platform to use can be a big decision. And while there are plenty of different options out there, such as Shopify, Storenvy, and Big Cartel, the most popular is Etsy.
There are Pros and Cons to choosing Etsy (just like any other e-commerce host), but if you’re looking for an easy-to-use platform — especially for signing up and getting started — then Etsy may be your best bet. Plus, Etsy’s high volume of traffic can help you reach many potential buyers. To be clear about Etsy’s fees and functionalities, here is what Etsy states on the seller’s homepage:
Just like anything pertaining to your business, opening an Etsy shop takes some careful consideration and work, such as the store name, your inventory of products, and how you design your storefront. I’ve created a short guide to ensure that when you launch your first Etsy shop you’ll be successful.
Here are some steps for successfully opening an Etsy shop:
Create an inventory list
As you will need to create a listing of items when you register for an Etsy shop, it’s helpful to take this step ahead of time so you’re clear on what items you currently have available to sell. If you have some products that are in the making, or you’re restocking, it’s important to note those as well — you can create a listing for them on your Etsy shop and have a label that says “Coming Soon.”
When you take inventory, make sure you take a lot of high-quality photos of your products at different angles that show the size/to-scale and that highlight their unique qualities. In addition to photos, note all important dimensions including width, height, length, and weight, if applicable. You’ll also need to be as descriptive as possible, because potential customers will hesitate to purchase something online unless they have every detail about the item (since they can’t see it in person). Etsy also has a direct messaging option, so you may have customers who reach out to you with additional questions to make a more informed purchase.
Consider writing down the color, shape, material, ingredients, handling and care, and the longevity of the product. The last thing you want is for a customer to return an item because there was something about the product that didn’t meet their expectations or that there was a quality issue with the product.
When you’re setting up your Etsy shop, posting your item listings will be one of your first steps, so getting organized ahead of time will help make the process more seamless!
Price your products
If you have a storefront already up and running, you would list the item for the same price on your Etsy store. If this is your first time establishing prices for your product, there are a few things to take into consideration:
- How much the materials cost to make your product
- Overhead costs (office space rent, equipment, driving expenses for buying supplies, mailing/shipping services, etc.)
- Taxes and Etsy fees
- Labor (how much time it takes for you to produce, package, and ship your products)
- Competition (how much your competitors charge)
- Your target audience and how much they may be willing to pay
Some of this will change over time as your business grows and you learn more about your customers’ shopping habits and feedback. Don’t be discouraged if you need to discount an item that isn’t selling or find ways to reduce production costs — part of being a business owner is trial and error and learning your business while running it.
To calculate shipping costs, Etsy offers a calculation tool that can help you make an informed estimate for your customers.
Choosing the right name
You may already have a business name in mind, or you may actually already have a physical storefront running with a registered business name, and now you’re looking to add an online shopping option for your customers. However, with so many storeowners on Etsy, your business’s name may already be taken. With this likely scenario, you’ll need to come up with another creative name.
First, a common thing to do is to add numbers or hyphens to your business name. For example, if your business name is Natural Soaps, but “naturalsoaps” on Etsy is already taken, you can try altering it such as “natural_soaps” or add your city’s area code so it’s “naturalsoaps617.”
If you can’t find a way to stick with your business’s name even with some alterations, you’ll need to think about another name that resonates with your brand. Think about what you’re offering, things that relate to it, and maybe a quality of your business that you’re proud of.
If you can’t come up with an alternate name, try using a name generator (which will ask you to list some words or phrases that you want to convey).
Selecting store preferences
Be sure you pay extra attention to your store settings. You can choose a default language for your store just once, although later on you can add translations for other languages you find in the demographics of your target audience.
Payment options for customers
As part of the registration process of opening an Etsy shop, you’ll need to provide your bank information. Depending on the country location of your shop, you’ll need to have a credit card on file. From there, Etsy assists you in setting up Etsy payments.
If you are ineligible to use Etsy payments, you have the option to use PayPal. One benefit of using Paypal is that it prepares a tax form for you as it keeps track of all your store’s transactions (with a business account), so you don’t have to worry about putting together the correct tax form when tax season comes around.
You also have the option to accept checks and money orders. For more detailed information on Etsy payments, go here.
Your storefront design
Even though you’re using the Etsy platform and not creating your e-commerce space on your own, you need to think about your Etsy store design. Since there are so many Etsy users now, your logo and page layout are very important to make your business stand out among the competition. Make sure that the aesthetic is consistent with what your business is selling, and that you’re posting high-quality images of everything. Make sure when naming your products that they’re also on-brand.
Be prepared to have strong customer service
On Etsy, you have the option to send a message to people who have checked out your shop. Since you won’t see these buyers in person, it’s important to have a strong presence online. By sending them a note welcoming them to your e-commerce shop and offering to answer any questions or concerns, you stand out among other shop owners. I’ve been more impressed by the few shop owners who took the extra step to start a conversation with me — it shows that they’re approachable and resourceful, and therefore more trustworthy.
One last thing to note is to be prepared for trial and error with your Etsy shop opening. If you’re afraid to fail, you won’t ever get to where you want to be. Failure is part of being self-employed and learning how to get your business on its feet. So don’t be too hard on yourself if there are some growing pains with opening your Etsy store and figuring out which products sell and what areas of your inventory where you can improve.
When starting an online business, don’t forget to get a business insurance quote to ensure you’re covered.
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