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How to Sell on Etsy


It’s Lisa here, and you know me as a monthly contributor for Handmade Success. What you might not know is that I’m also owner of the Energy Shop on Etsy: a spirited little spot where I sell gemstone jewelry and Feng Shui supplies. In that, I turned $100 worth of supplies into thousands of sales and a second income for my family. When I opened the Energy Shop, I soon realized that I loved the business side of my shop as much as I loved making the products that I sell. I devoured marketing strategy, and I turned my hobby into a successful small business.

I love to talk shop!  And as time passes, I find that I have more and more to say on the subject. Therefore, and in honor of the Energy Shop’s third year of business, today I’d love to share and discuss how to sell on Etsy.

While there are mention-worthy alternatives in the world of handmade marketplaces, nothing has taken off the way Etsy has. When I started in 2010, there were approximately 400,000 active sellers on the marketplace. Today, there’s more than a million and counting.

Here are some tips for getting a head start when building your creative business on Etsy …

Take fresh photographs

Be sure to make your pictures bright, crisp, and clear. Without good photography, your products simply will not get noticed. You can follow a few guidelines for top-notch product photography, such as:

  • Use models (when possible).* 

The better you can help your customers imagine using your product, the better your sales conversion will be. In general, when people are considering any purchase, they imagine that product or service already in their life. If that’s an appealing idea, they buy the product.

Models show your piece being worn or used, giving the customer an even clearer mental image of where the product would fit in their own life.

*I’ve heard some sellers say that they’re not fond of products photographed on models because it makes the product look used. Most sellers taking shots on models are professional enough not to sell things that have been worn – I give the product away to the models who wear it (and so do the other sellers I’ve interviewed). You may want to disclose in the listing whether the stock for sale has ever been worn.

  • Simplify backgrounds and backdrops.

A simple background directs the customer’s eye to the product for sale. A creative or busy background forces people to search for the product for sale, and most potential customers won’t take the time to find it. Try to keep the photographs clean, clear, and bright. Remember: The more professional it looks, the better your overall presentation will be.

If you have an already simple-looking product (such as dainty jewelry or white porcelain dishes), experiment with different scrapbook and stationery papers.

Finally, make sure your backdrops and backgrounds have a matching theme and that every picture helps to strengthen your brand identity. For instance, I try to capture an earthy, slightly magical look in every product photo. I find that three to four different (but matching) backgrounds keep my shop looking cohesive, yet add variety to my listings.

  • Lighting matters.

Lighting is the most important aspect of product photography. If you can find the right natural light to shoot your product, you will save yourself hours upon hours of photo editing. Experiment with both indoor and outdoor lighting at different times of day to find the perfect shot.

For example, if your shop is romantic, model shots could be taken at golden hours (sunrise or sunset – when the sun is golden and appears soft and diffused). As I said before, my jewelry is shot in high, direct sunlight, and this often leaves distracting shadows in the picture. However, it saves me time in editing because I’m always pleased with the exposure (the brightness and vividness of the picture). You can defuse strong sunlight by shooting a product through the window or outside under cloud or shade.

  • Patience is key.

Give yourself all day to take the photographs you need because it’s the first thing that’s going to matter to your future customers. There’s a lot to learn and adjust in product photography: lighting, exposure, backdrops, focus, etc. Take deep breaths and allow yourself the space and patience it takes to improve your skill.

Write proper listings

One of my favorite lessons in creative business building is on complete copywriting. Copywriting is what you might already be calling a “listing” or “description.” It’s when the text you use helps to advertise your product, and your listing should absolutely help you make the sale.

Remember: (1.) Your customer can’t touch the product, so you have to describe the physical experience for them, and (2.) If you don’t take the time to list your product properly, you can’t expect the customer to give you the sale.

I see too many Etsy shop listings that look like they belong on Craigslist, i.e.:

5″ x 11″

Black with white trim

wood frame

No – n.o. Your visitor won’t go for this! Welcome them into your shop by pretending that you had a physical storefront, and a potential customer just asked you for more detail on this particular item. In actuality, that’s what they’re doing when they click on a picture in your shop, and you need to take the time to properly respond to their interest.

Start spreading the word

Again, this is all part of building your creative business, and we’ll discuss this further in some upcoming posts. In the early stages of a shop, time is most certainly on your side. Start a blog by the same name (or if you already have a blog, start a shop by the blog’s name), and use Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.

Set up all of your social media accounts and invest some time establishing them now, so that when you get busier (and time becomes harder to come by), you can choose which social media outlets are most enjoyable and beneficial to your small business.

Create an experience for your customer

Think about your favorite booth at an art show. It’s an experience. It has atmosphere and ambience, and it compels you to take a piece of it home. That’s what we’re going for inside your Etsy shop.

Think of what your brand represents: Is it warm? Magical? Cozy? Bright? Exciting? Innovative? Informational? Dainty? What adjectives describe it best? And once you’ve identified those adjectives, does your shop send that message upon arrival?

What might you do to create an atmosphere and ambience that compels your visitor to take a piece of your business home?

Start now

Just for kicks, have a look at my first sale. (For the record, my heart just swells every time I see that picture, and I broke many of the rules I preach today.  Why did I take pictures of my bracelets on a cell phone? I have no idea.) Please realize that your business will evolve, and you’ll refine your approach as you grow. I wish you all the best in your endeavor!


Lisa Jacobs — Marketing Creativity

Lisa Jacobs writes Marketing Creativity for fellow creative spirits who aim to build a career with their own two hands. She leads group webinar programs and offers one-on-one coaching designed to help you get paid to be … you.

Link Love + Update to this Week’s Facebook Post

Happy Friday! A couple of things I wanted to share with you as we head into the weekend.

Facebook: Friend or Foe

Facebook has made another change since we ran the post from Maggie Kmiecik on Tuesday so she added an update at the beginning of the post. You can see it here.

Tailor Your Social Media Content to Each Channel

I found this article from Independent Fashion Bloggers about how to use the different types of social media so fascinating! I especially realized that I have not been using Facebook in the best way possible.

30 Ways to Promote Your Blog Posts

Super awesome infographic from Andreea Ayers on Launch, Grow, Joy!

Picmonkey Halloween

Have you seen all of the cool and spooky features Picmonkey has right now for Halloween? I made myself into a sugar skull the other day just for fun.

Project Lab Maison: Building A New Design Blog Part 1

If you have not checked out I AM THE LAB yet I strongly urge you to do so! Brett Torrey is busy getting the word out about handmade and he has a new project that he would like your feedback on. Go check it out!

I hope you have fabulous weekend plans! If there are any articles you would like to share too please do so in the comments. Hugs!


PicMonkey: New Photo Editing Site

Over the last year I have enjoyed using the photo editing site Picnik and was upset to hear that it was closing in April. The site is so intuitive and fun. With hopes of finding a site just as easy to use, I asked our Twitter and Facebook friends for suggestions. I learned about a lot of sites and thought that you fellow Picnik fans would be happy to hear about PicMonkey. The lovely Lisa Holt Ross from Eugene, Oregon told me about it and that it was reportedly created by ex-Picnikers. My interest was piqued and I decided to learn more.

I checked out the site and was very excited! You can upload a photo right away with a variety of editing options including cropping, adding effects, touch-ups, adding text, overlays, borders and tons more. I have learned a lot in the last year about editing photos but am still a novice and absolutely love how simple this site is to navigate and use.

I contacted PicMonkey to ask if I could do a blog post about them and if there was any information that I should pass on to our readers. I received a quick response from Jenn and she said they are very happy for the support and would love it if I helped spread the word. (more…)

Camera Compare

Before we delve any further into the In’s and Out’s of Photography, I thought that this would be a good point to talk about our cameras. It seems as though every time you go out to snap some photos, there’s always someone around who has a “better camera” than you. Sometimes you might be the one with the snazziest camera in the room, but the perennial question always seems to be “Is my camera good enough?”

Instant Collection of Instamatic Cameras from Falcon and Finch

My sister and I were having this exact discussion today at lunch. We met up for some yummy noodles during our lunch breaks and she told me that she had begun selling her jewelry designs on Etsy. The only problem, she said, is that her photos weren’t very good. “My camera must be pretty bad,” she said.

Then I told her about an experiment that I had done for an Etsy Success article with the very camera she was bemoaning. What I had wanted to know was if, for the purposes of selling on Etsy, one camera greatly outshone another. (more…)

Understanding White Balance

Today’s guest post is a continuation of our new monthly series on photography. The lovely and talented Jen Kiaba will be helping you navigate your camera and vastly improve your photography skills – Kerry 

White Balance is one of those things that’s still pretty elusive to most photographers. So if you read those two words and your eyes cross just a little bit, that’s ok. In fact, some photographers hadn’t ever had to worry about White Balance until the age of digital.