How to Sell Successfully Using Etsy.com

How-To Guides — By on October 27, 2010 at 2:45 pm

Etsy.com was launched more than five years ago as a social marketplace for handmade, vintage, and arts and crafts vendors. Products range from clothing and jewelry to stationary and toys. The virtual craft fair of sorts has provided a venue for local artisans to easily sell their wares online, as well as create new opportunities for offline interaction.

Should your business create a product that is a good fit for Etsy and you are considering joining the site, we hope you find the following guide, created with the help of several Columbus crafters, useful.

Set Up an Account and Create a Profile

Registering an account with Etsy is free and fairly easy to do, but there are some best practices that come into play when filling out a profile and configuring a store.

“Since Etsy is not your own website that you can create your own design for, your profile needs to be totally complete,” explains Amy Dalrymple of Made by AmyD. “Etsy is a very online-oriented community. People want to know about you personally before they buy.”

Listing items for sale in your shop will cost 20 cents per item and Etsy also takes a 3.5 percent transaction fee from every item sold.

“It won’t cost much to initially create your shop,” says Megan Green of Stinkybomb Soap. “My suggestion is to first do your homework. Find a few key artists on Etsy that you like and see what they are selling and how they are doing. Then you can create your shop and experiment.”

Develop Your Brand

Anne Holman's Etsy Store

If you’re already in the business of selling crafts or other handmade products, you’ve most likely established some form of branding or identity for your business. Either way, it’s important to convey your brand through your Etsy store.

“Make sure you have a ‘look’ that will be familiar to customers,” says Anne Holman of Anne Holman Jewelry. “Have some consistency in your photography style and your quality of products. You’ll want your customers to immediately be able to identify your brand.”

With more than 2 million new items listed every month and more than 250,000 new users logging into Etsy every month, it is important to have a unique brand and unique, high-quality products.

“It’s easy to set up a store. A baby could do that, but the main thing is to not sell crappy shit,” says Sharon Dorsey of YaySockPuppet. “I know that sounds like a no-brainer, but you have to take this stuff seriously.”

“Be original,” Holman adds. “Find your own voice. Don’t try to follow trends too closely.”

Take Great Photographs & Write Great Descriptions

Etsy is a very visual online platform and eye-catching photography was one thing universally recommended by every local artisan to whom we spoke.

“Your photos are really important,” Dorsey says. ” If someone’s pictures really suck, I won’t buy their stuff.”

Dalrymple says her “biggest weakness is not taking the time for great photos.”

Most average-priced, consumer-grade digital cameras have the capabilities necessary for taking good photos. Additionally, there are several How-To guides online for refining the photography process and making the most of Etsy pictures, such as the one found here: How to improve your photos.

“Product descriptions are also key” Green explains. “The frequency of listing and re-listing your items allows you to stay fresh and new.”

Write detailed descriptions, as your store is the only way most people will get a feel for the items you are selling, Holman says.

“Make sure your products are represented accurately,” she adds.

Advertise Your Products

If you have an existing business website, you can easily connect the two− either through a simple html link or by embedding your Etsy store into your website. Additional tools exist for Facebook integration and Twitter connectivity.

“Advertise the shit out of your store,” Dorsey says. “Don’t annoy people every time you post a new item, but offer sales frequently. It gives you something to advertise and a reason to post something on Twitter or Facebook.”

Join the Online Etsy Community

Sharon Dorsey's Etsy Store

Etsy contains a very strong community component made up of blog posts, messageboard forums, chatrooms, organized Etsy teams, and other resources.

“Become active on Etsy,” Dorsey says. “Join a team and leave comments on all kinds of stuff. If people see your name a lot, they are more likely to support your store.”

Plus, teams spend a great deal of time not only cross-advertising, but also buying from each other, she says.

“Many of them are juried and you have to apply, so make sure to apply to one that pertains to your type of products,” she advises.

However, Dalrymple says she thinks Etsy forums are a waste of time.

“When Etsy first started and there were only 1,000 active users, it was sort of interesting,” she adds. “I’ve found that it’s mostly a bitch fest these days.”

Join a Local Offline Etsy Community

The online community components of Etsy carry over into the real world with localized teams, organized events, and other types of real life support groups.

“Support one another,” Dorsey says. “Become active in your local craft community. Buy from each other. It’s great karma and, therefore, will boost your sales.”

Dalrymple advises looking into Etsy Team Columbus, a local collective of artists, artisans and craftspeople who work together for mutual benefit on their creative and small business endeavors.

Final Words of Advice

Megan Green's Etsy Store

Etsy can be a powerful tool for many small artisan businesses when used correctly and best practices are taken into consideration.

“While a very competitive marketplace, Etsy can be great for reaching an audience all over the world,” Green says. “I know several artists who have had great success on Etsy and others who sell a few pieces every few months. It’s all about what you put into it.”

“I love what Etsy does,” Dalrymple adds. ”I started on Etsy and it is a great way to test the waters for your creations. As a platform to showcase your goods, it’s excellent. I’m not sure that it’s a great way for everyone to grow a sustainable business, though. Some people can do it, but I don’t think most people can.”

“Just make sure you are selling something you can make well consistently and that it is something you love doing,” Holman says.

“I’m personally grateful to Etsy for getting us started and tend to look at it as an incubator for creating an online presence,” Green says. “We still have our Etsy shop, but are now starting to put a focus on our own website.”

For more information, visit the official How To on Etsy.com and check out related How-To articles on the Etsy Blog.

Special thanks go out to the local crafters and artisans who contributed to this How-To Guide:

Walker Evans Walker Evans (93 Articles)

Walker is the founder of ColumbusUnderground.com and co-founder of TheMetropreneur.com along with his wife and business partner Anne Evans. Walker has turned local media from a hobby into a full time career over the past decade and serves on multiple boards and committees throughout the community.


  • http://www.themetropreneur.com/columbus/members/amyd/ amy dalrymple

    Great article, Walker! Sharon is right! sometimes the quality of an item is lacking, and with Etsy’s feedback, it won’t take long for people to spread the word.
    And also, I didn’t mean most people can’t make a living making handmade goods. I meant that having only an Etsy page probably won’t give you enough income to make a viable business.
    later taters