In December 2015, I opened my very first Etsy shop. Over the course of a year, I've learned a lot about what to do and what not to do.
While there are plenty of articles that will tell you about how a shop owner made hundreds of thousands (or even millions!) of dollars in their first year, I will warn you now: this is not that article. In fact, my story is the furthest thing you can get from a unicorn story.
This is the anti-unicorn story of starting an Etsy shop. Why? Because the majority of people are not unicorns. They will not make six figures in their first year or even within two years. In fact, according to Slate, 65% of Etsy sellers do not make more than $100 in their first year. It's time we talked about the reality of selling and the real work involved in starting a brand from the bottom up.
Real business growth and development takes time, intentional work, and an honest assessment of your operations. In this article, I'll take a deep dive on how I started my Etsy shop in the jewelry category and where I am after year 1... for better or for worse.
I started my Etsy shop under the following conditions:
- I did not have any business goals. It was a hobby and was not a source of income.
- I was still learning to make jewelry and deciding what I liked.
- I did not have a lot of inventory.
- I did not have a plan to scale in place.
- I did not have a target audience.
If you're taking notes, then the 5 things above are things that you should definitely avoid if you want to run your Etsy shop to make a profit. And while I won't claim to have every single answer today or every business detail figured out, I feel much more confident going into 2017 for the following reasons:
- I have identified SMART goals for my business
- Time Bound
- I know my target audience.
- I have a strategy for scaling.
- I have more technical skills after additional training.
- I know what I'm going to make and sell.
What follows is a deepdive of the first block of the infographic above: Etsy Drives Customers to Your Shop. The infographic summarizes my first year selling on Etsy and what you can expect when you start an Etsy shop (especially in the jewelry category!).
This article is part one of a multi-article series where I'll explore starting an Etsy shop. Each week, I'll share tips and guidance from each block on the infographic.
Etsy Drives Customers to Your Shop
While it might seem obvious that Etsy drives customers to your shop, it is not a given when you're just starting out. Unless you already have an Etsy store and are familiar with how it works, it's not crazy to explore your eCommerce platform options. This will help you determine what will be best for your business growth.
I have heard many people ask why they should sell on Etsy over some other platforms. The answer for me is easy. I look at my shop traffic. When I started out, I researched multiple platforms including Fancy, Etsy, Amazon Handmade, Sundry Style, and a standalone website.
I got frustrated setting up my Fancy.com site after a few visits. I tried to import my Etsy listings via a .csv file and found the entire process annoying. I didn't find the user interface on Fancy.com as user friendly as Etsy. My understanding of everything I'd need to run a business was already minimal, so I didn’t want to pile on my list of things to have to learn. Trying to learn about Etsy and Fancy was just too overwhelming. Fancy had to go.
Amazon Handmade ended up on the discard list too. The fees did not make financial sense for me given that I had barely even dipped my toes in the selling waters. I wanted to steer clear of racking up fees before I had a chance to decide if I enjoyed selling.
I've since read reviews from other people who use Amazon Handmade and also say that the user interface is just not the same as Etsy. Maybe in a few years I'll try selling on Amazon Handmade, but right now, it seems like they are still getting a handle on their user interface for handmade sellers.
Sundry Style is another site for curated, handmade content. I opened a shop on the platform and still sell a few of my items there. While I received a few sales (including a few very loyal customers who now buy directly from my website), the fees (a percentage per sale) are much higher than Etsy. I could only afford to list a few items on the site after negotiating with the site owner.
Originally, the site owner requested that sellers not raise prices above what we're selling elsewhere online, but that model would have led me to not sell on the platform at all. While the site is a great idea and I love the opportunity to be apart of that community, the user interface is still in its earliest stages. There isn't an ability to easily update listing, deactivate listings, or put your shop on "vacation mode". Those were features that I otherwise would have taken for granted with Etsy.
“Finally, it was important for me to establish my own website from day one. I cannot stress the importance of this enough.
STANDALONE SITE: LOVEYANZ.COM
Finally, it was important for me to establish my own website from day one. I cannot stress the importance of this enough. I’ve heard horror stories of very successful Etsy shops being shutdown for reasons entirely outside of the seller's control. Furthermore, Etsy can go down or close their doors at any point. Why would you want to put your entire business in someone else’s hands?
Having a standalone site allows you to generate unique traffic that you can use to assess interest in your brand. It gives you an opportunity to look very polished and professional when you share links and advertisements. And it allows you a one stop shop for interacting directly with your customers. The opportunities are endless for customization, interactions, and content. For instance, even with new features added daily, Etsy still doesn’t allow for videos within listings. This is something some of the biggest companies like Zappos use all of the time and it’s something you can offer too if you have your own website.
In the end, I've been very happy with the balance I've struck between maintaining my own brand through loveyanz.com and finding new customers through Etsy. While I can't say for certain what platforms I'll dive into this year, I am sure that Etsy will remain at the top of my list due to the amount of traffic and new sales I’ve been able to generate.
If the idea of making and selling jewelry interests you- either because you’re thinking about about opening up an Etsy jewelry shop or already have a shop, then you’ve come to the right place! Join the Jewelryosophy 360 community for even more tips and tricks to take your jewelry business to the next level.