Opening up Shop: Tips to help you get started selling on Etsy.

Most of you already know that I opened an Etsy shop back at the beginning of September when I began sharing tutorials for the My Little Pony Sew-Along. I was a bit leery of starting a shop at the time, but just couldn’t resist the requests I kept receiving from non-sewers whose children desperately wanted to dress as their favorite MLP character for Halloween. I’m a sucker when it comes to kids and ponies!

I made sure to do my research before opening though, instead of just jumping in like I did when I started my blog. I read articles, bugged my friends who already had Etsy shops with a dozens of questions, and tracked down suppliers for all my necessary materials. Trust me, You don’t even want to know the number of lists I made!

Once I was sure everything was ready, I opened my shop and prepared to wait awhile for my first orders. (Everyone had already warned me that I might have to wait months for anything to sell.) Three days went by and then BAM! Halloween orders came pouring in so fast that I had to create a wait-list. I actually had to turn away more orders than I was able to accept simply because I couldn’t sew fast enough! Sleep was lost, children watched WAY too much tv, and I kept wishing that I knew someone in the area who could come over and help. 

I had bitten off far more than I could chew, and poor Ant pretty much just stared at the crazed, unwashed, sleep-deprived woman who had exploded all over the dining room with a look of fear in his eyes. He eventually said “I’d love to support you and I’d be happy to help, but you would just end up yelling at me that I had screwed something up. I’m very proud that your shop is doing so well, but I have absolutely no idea what’s going on right now.” He’s right of course. I was so far gone into the land of panic that I’m ashamed to admit

I probably would’ve just as soon growl at you as look at you. It was bad. really bad.

Ok, so what’s the point of my ramble?

Well, since it’s the beginning of a new year, some of you might be considering opening a shop of your own soon. I figured I’d try to help out a bit by sharing how my first 5 months as a seller went, and maybe pass along a few tips that might help you get started. 

1. Have a designated work space if you can. I know this one isn’t always feasible, but trust me, you’ll be about a zillion times more productive if you have your own space. I was working out of our tiny dining room and had to pack away my sewing machine and serger every time I needed to use the computer or do any cutting. Talk about wasting valuable nap time!

2. Try to keep at least a few products in stock. Even if you are creating custom orders, try to have a few things ready to go on short notice. I definitely don’t have items readily available for every MLP character in every size, but I try to keep the most popular colors of ears, tails and wings on hand. Then even if someone orders a full costume I only have to make a hoodie & pants and can have it shipped in half the time than if I was starting from scratch. (Always keep dye-lots in mind when creating back-stock! I had a little mix-up in the beginning and ended up with a hoodie and ears in two different shades. Oops!)

3. Make friends with the post office workers. This may sound odd, but shipping can get complicated pretty quickly. It’s nice to have someone who knows what they’re doing to help when you’re starting out. I drive a few miles out of my way to get to a tiny post office with only three employees. They’re happy to answer all my questions and make sure that I choose the best shipping options for my money. 

4.You’re creating a brand. Make it great! Your Etsy header, business cards, sewing labels, and packaging all say something about you and your business. Make sure everything is cohesive and makes an great impression. If you’ve followed me for awhile you likely already know about my signature colors (teal, pink, & green) and heart button (favicon, header tart & post signature). I made sure to carry those things over into my Etsy design so that my blog and shop would compliment each other.

5. Keep ALL your receipts! And while you’re at it, set up a spread sheet or five to help keep track of you supply purchases, profits, shipping costs, etc. They’ll be amazingly useful when tax time rolls around, and it’s always nice to see at a glance what your best selling products are or if you’re undercharging for shipping.

6. Know when it’s time to stop accepting orders. I’m absolutely terrible at saying “No”, but we all have our limits. Some people may try to make you feel guilty if you tell then you are too busy to make them a custom order or that a certain item is sold out. Always be polite when you have to refuse something, but stick to your guns. Working so hard that you turn into a walking zombie isn’t good for you or your family. (I’m speaking from experience here!)

*Bonus Tip* – Accept ANY help that your friends and family are willing to offer. I know it can be extremely difficult to relinquish control of your creations. A lot of crafters are perfectionists about the items we sell, and we worry that no one else will be as thorough as we would ourselves. There are plenty of little things that others can help with; printing off packing slips, cutting out simple pattern pieces, boxing up shipments, or even just making a Post Office run so that you can focus on your work, are all easy ways to lighten your load.  (If I could just teach Ant how to sew hair clips onto ears while he watches football I’d be an extremely happy camper!)

Now if you’re ready to start setting up a shop of your own – I highly suggest starting with this awesome Beginners Guide to Selling on Etsy. It includes tons of great articles and will walk you step by step through the entire process. By the end you’ll have an amazing shop, and be ready for anything that might be thrown your way!

Click image to open interactive version (via WorldPay Zinc).

 Even more great Etsy advice!

Liz Marie Blog: 8 Things to know before selling on Etsy

Delightfully Noted: Top Ten Things You Should Do to Get Started

She Owns It: Selling on Etsy: The Right Business Decision for You?

The Etsy Blog: A Beginner’s Guide to Starting a Shop on Etsy

Crochet Business: 10 Thing you should know before you open an Etsy shop

For Dummies: Starting an Etsy business for dummies – The cheat sheet

Good Luck with your new Etsy store and happy selling!

If you’ve already got a shop, be sure to leave the name in the

comments so I can check out your awesomeness! 

(no link necessary I’ll find it) 

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15 thoughts on “Opening up Shop: Tips to help you get started selling on Etsy.

  1. As someone who has been selling on Etsy and other places, this is great advice. This isn't just specific to Etsy, it is good advice for any online selling. I will reiterate #6. ALWAYS make some time for yourself; don't get burned out or you will start to hate what you do for fun.

  2. It still just boggles my mind that you got SO busy SO quickly . . . but only because I was one of those shops who waited months and months for my first order, and I believe I even told you not to get frustrated if you also were waiting months and months for an order, and then BAM, your shop just took off like crazy! So awesome for you! I had figured everyone had to wait forever to get a sale, but you proved me wrong, which is a fantastic thing to be wrong about 🙂 Great tips!

    1. I truly think it was all about the timing. If I had opened a few weeks later I don't think I would have seen even half so many orders that soon. It was definitely an happy accident on my part! Maybe I'll just have one of those shops that ONLY sells stuff at Halloween, and does nothing the rest of the year. Consolidate the crazy. 😉

    1. You're very welcome Emily, and your work is lovely! I just got an embroidery machine to help with my pony costumes, and I can't wait to get started figuring out all the awesome things it can make!

    1. Wow Stephanie, send him my congratulations and wishes for continued success! Your husband does gorgeous work! I never would have thought of combining woodworking and pens, but they are lovely. I'll have to send your link to my husband. He's an architect, and I'm sure some of his co-workers would really enjoy these!

  3. I just visited your shop and your items are adorable! Congratulations!! Your shop has done well. I have 3, soon to be 2 shops on Etsy. One has been fairly successful, the other, not so. I think you are right about timing, but you also have something people want at a good price point. You seem to love your product too. Three ingredients to a successful business life. I wish you continued good luck.

    1. Thank you so much Kathi! I have a hard enough time keeping up with the kids, this blog, and a single shop. (and not very well I might add 😉. I couldn't even imagine trying to take on multiple stores at once. You must have super powers! That's such a good point about really needing to LOVE your product too. My ponies definitely hold a special place in my heart. If they didn't, I wouldn't be able to drag myself through even one hectic Halloween season without throwing in the towel. You have to make what's in your heart! Thanks for visiting, and Good Luck with your shops!

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