February 2, 2015

10 Things I Learned From My First Year Selling On Etsy


This week will mark the first anniversary of my instant download shop The Dutch Lady Designs on Etsy. Back in February 2014 I opened up this shop with the first pieces of clipart for scrapbook purposes. I remember being ecstatic when I made my first sale. Which turned out to be a sale to my parents, because they wanted to support me ;-)

A year further down the road I have a second shop on Etsy for more custom work and blog design, called Dutch Lady Digi Design, made over 700 sales in total and learned quite a bit along the way. And I want to share with you what I personally learned from that first year, because who knows, it might help out a starting Etsy seller. So here we go!

1 - THE MORE ITEMS YOU HAVE ON DISPLAY, THE MORE VISIBLE YOU ARE
Etsy itself provides a great search machine. When people type in certain keywords your items might become visible to them if you gave those items similar keywords. But with only a couple of items on display you somehow are not as visible as the big shop. I definitely began to notice a difference when I began to add more and more items to my shop.

2 - THE MORE YOU SELL, THE MORE VISIBLE YOU ARE
It sucks for newbies, I know. But the more sales you make, the better visible you will be. This probably has to do with the fact that you will have to re-list the item to Etsy again after a sale and it will be begin in top position again. The longer it takes for an item to get sold, the further away from the top position it gets. And when someone types in a keyword, they get the newest items first and have to go through page after page to find you item that has been sliding its way down the list.

3 - MAKE A GOOD START WITH THE HELP OF FRIENDS AND FAMILY
This might sound cheeky and not completely fair, but it definitely helps. My parents bought the first items in both my shops and left good reviews. Not completely objective, but very helpful. Because customers are more likely to buy from a shop that has made some sales and has gotten some nice reviews. So this might get you off to a good start. Make sure though you live up to the expectations you create with this!

4 - PROMOTE YOUR SHOP OUTSIDE ETSY TOO
While I still get the most traffic from inside Etsy itself, it sure does help to promote your shop on other platforms. I have links to my shop on this blog, on my personal blog and whenever I put a new item in the shop I promote this on platforms like Google+, Pinterest, Tumblr, Weheartit etc. 

5 - BE EASILY ACCESSIBLE FOR POSSIBLE CLIENTS
Don't you hate it when you approach someone with a question about a product or a service and they never reply? Well, your customers do too. Make sure you answer all messages and emails you get through Etsy within at least a few days. And if you are away for more than a few days, make sure you let your customers know in your shop banner and set up an auto reply for the Etsy messages you get.

6 - GIVE GOOD AND CLEAR INFORMATION ON A PRODUCT
Be as specific as you can with information on a product you are selling. Even if you think you have covered everything, you will still get a ton of questions from potential customers. So the more you narrow this down, the easier it will be for you. I easily spend a couple of hours a week on answering questions, not knowing whether they will end up in an actual order or not. If I gave less information on my items than I do know, I would probably need a full day replying to questions. Don't pester yourself this way.

7 - REACH OUT TO POSSIBLE CLIENTS
In Etsy, everyone has the possibility to 'like' a shop's items or the shop itself. I try to send everyone that likes my items or shop a little message with a discount code for a first purchase. I made a standard message, so I only have to paste this in the message box and send if off the liker. This has helped me tremendously. People really seem to like the personal touch it leaves with them. It shows them that there is actually someone at the other end paying attention to the shop and what's going on. I made quite a few sales through this, and probably not so much because I offered a discount, but because I took the effort to reach out to them. So even if you cannot give a discount you may send a message that you appreciate the fact that someone liked your stuff and that you are available to answer any questions they might have.

8 - LIVE UP TO YOUR OWN SALES CONDITIONS
If you promise the client that the product will be made in a certain amount of time, or sent in a certain amount of time, then please do so! They did their part of the deal, which is paying, you have to make sure you do your part of the deal as promised. And when for some reason you are not able to meet the expectations and conditions, then communicate about this with the client. They have a right to know why their order is delayed.

9 - DON'T WASTE TOO MUCH ENERGY ON NASTY CLIENTS AND EXPERIENCES
Sooner or later every Etsy seller will encounter a situation where they have a client that isn't satisfied with what they delivered or that a client is not on the same level and there is miscommunication on an order. It happened to me a few times, although I have to say that the majority of people is really great to work with. I decided for myself that I wanted to solve these situations with dignity and not end up in a fight. I had a client a while back that bought a Branding Package out of the blue without contacting me first on her plans (which is clearly asked in the item's information). What she had in mind was not what I had to offer. She wanted me to work on a logo that another designer created, and that's not what I do. Had she told me her plans first, I could have made that clear to her. Now she had spent $75 on a service I couldn't and wouldn't provide. If I would have been strict with her I could have said I was keeping the money since she didn't contact me first while that was stated clearly. But what's the point in creating so much friction and stress over money? So I suggested her I would refund her the money but with a deduction of the Etsy costs I had to make (listing fee of $0.20 and the 3.5% commission fee). She agreed and we solved the issue. Like Dr. Phil likes to say: "Do you want to be right, or do you want to be happy?". Well, I choose happy!

10 - THERE'S A MARKET FOR YOUR PRODUCT!
While it is good to check out your competition to see what kind of products they sell and for what prices, it may leave you feeling uncertain about your shop and products. Sometimes it just seems like other shop owners just do better. They sell more, have gorgeous products and you begin to question if your shop will ever take off. What I've learned is that for every seller, there will be customers. There are so many designers on Etsy selling Blogger templates for example, and for everyone of them there will be clients. Because the style of one designer is not the style of the other. We are all unique and so are our customers. So please don't stop believing in yourself and your product!

I hope that the 10 things I learned from my first year selling on Etsy will help out some other sellers that are just starting out. And as an extra to help out fellow sellers I want to do a blog series called 'Creatives in the Spotlight'. Blog posts where Etsy seller can tell their stories in the form of an interview. So if you are reading this and you would like to take part in this series, please contact me through the contact form! I would love to hear from you!
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