Taking the time to focus on your creative passions can be hard work. Whether it’s life, work or everything in between that gets in the way, having the energy to actually sit down and make it happen is easier said than done. Perhaps you’re interested in starting a textile business or selling Helvetica-themed houseware. Wherever your creative skills lie, there’s no better place to start your small business than Etsy.
I recently opened things i drew, an Etsy store that specializes in custom wedding stationery. While I was familiar with frequenting the artisan marketplace for unique, one-of-a-kind pieces, starting my own Etsy store was a whole new beast to tackle. All the makings of an Etsy store — from product photography to pricing — can be daunting, especially for a beginner business owner. So, I’m going to give the 4-1-1 on how to start your first Etsy store with everything you’ll need to know to reach selling greatness. Read on for tips!
WHERE TO START
Create an inventory of all your items. Start an Excel or Google Drive spreadsheet that has a list of all the items you plan to sell along with any item details such as materials, measurements, whether it’s a downloadable file or a physical object and if it’s ready-made or custom. Having an organized spreadsheet of your inventory with item details will help you flesh out your vision and figure out what your small business is going to be about.
Find your voice. Write down five words that best describe your work and style. What words did you write down? Exercises like this will help you uncover your store’s voice. Think about what you’re selling and how you want your store to be remembered. Your unique voice, whether it’s quirky or formal, will create an experience for your customers — and you’ll want to leave the right impression!
DEFINE YOUR BRAND
Define your ideal customer. The best way to do this is to define the characteristics of a target customer, starting with someone who resonated with your work IRL and building on that persona. You might find that they’re creative but not hands-on or that they’re moms shopping for their kids. Keep your ideal customer in mind so that every business and creative decision (from photography styling to private convos) addresses and engages with them.
Decide on a store name that lasts. Think about your items, style, ideal customer, brand voice and store’s scope. This’ll help you determine what your store is all about and help you figure out your store name. If you’re stumped, go back to those five words you wrote down earlier for reference and go with your gut!
Create a store logo that reflects your style. Your logo tells a visual story of who you are and what your store is all about. Be sure that it reflects all of the above points and is consistent with the style of your work.
DO THE MATH
Price your work. Use this formula as a baseline: (Material + Labor + Profit) x 2 = Price. Consider all the factors of your work and their market value. I modified this basic formula for pricing items on Etsy, but here’s a breakdown of everything to consider when pricing your items:
1). Material cost: Everything from ink to thread should be included in your price. Don’t forget the expense of hidden costs like studio rentals, travel and packaging too.
2). Hourly wage: Research how much someone of your skill set makes hourly and multiply that by the average hours you spend making an item. And don’t over- or underestimate how many hours you work or the amount of time spent messaging customers — you must be honest in your calculations.
3). Profit: Whether you’re a hobbyist starting a side business or you’re hoping to venture into full-time with your Etsy store, you’ll need to decide on a profit margin. This can be tricky, so I suggest doing research on the price of a similar item either on Etsy or on other online boutiques. Ask yourself: Is there a market out there for profit? If not, set a realistic or low profit margin. However, while it’s tempting to offer affordable prices, it’s important that you don’t undersell your work. Find a price that you’re comfortable with and pays you fairly.
4). Breaking even: Consider that you’re starting a small business for the first time. It’s not necessarily booming with customer reviews and may not for a while. If it’s more important that you build a loyal customer base, you can choose to break even for the first few months by setting a modest price closer to wholesale.
FOCUS ON PHOTOGRAPHY
Find a photographer who knows how to showcase what you’re selling. Starting an Etsy store is a great opportunity to reach out to your creative friends and collaborate on a photo shoot. Don’t forget to gather inspirational product photos for the photographer to reference your desired style.
Make a lightbox. A lightbox creates that even and soft lighting for beautiful product photography. A DIY lightbox is super easy to do (it takes less than an hour to make!) and allows you to take photos right in your living room.
Prep your items before shooting. This step takes as much time as the actual photography. Make sure your items are picture-perfect and that their selling points are ready to be photographed. This could include steaming a garment or pre-addressing envelopes in calligraphy.
Choose styling props that pop. Bring your photos to life with bright props. This can be anything from metallic ribbon, a colorful backdrop, flora and foliage to mid-century modern interiors.
Think about the FAQs you’ll be getting. Put yourself in the customer’s shoes and think about what questions will come up before and during the design or selling process so you can add FAQs to your store policy section. Bonus: Etsy lets you pre-fill responses, making iPhone correspondence super easy!
Make listings SEO-friendly. Include popular search words in the item name and the first paragraph of your item description. Your Etsy stats and Google Trends are a great way of figuring out those popular search words.
Practice your skills. Don’t forget what kickstarted your small business in the first place. Be creative and hone your skills so you can continue doing great work!
Have you started an Etsy store and have beginner tips to share? Tell us in the comments below!
(Photos via Melissa de Mata Photography)