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A traveller's guide to making money through Etsy

A quick guide to making money through Etsy

I’m going to tell you a few little secrets on how I make money through Etsy.

For those of you who haven’t used Etsy before, I’ll briefly explain. Etsy is an online marketplace for handmade items, vintage items, or craft supplies.

I decided to sell digital stationery designs on Etsy back in 2012 as a way to step into self-employment and work from home, and it’s been a huge success! Read the full story on how my Etsy shop came about here.

My shop stats for 2014:

I actually made over $10,500 AUD through Etsy in 2014! My products were purchased worldwide; about 44% of my sales came from Australia & NZ, followed by 37% from North America and 18% from Europe.

Minus fees, my profit came out around $9500. These fees might seem high, but I actually think they’re reasonable considering I don’t have to pay rent for a shop front. They include Etsy’s listing fees, and payment processing fees through both Etsy and Paypal.

Benefits of having an Etsy shop:

  • It costs very little money to start. Each item only costs .20c USD to list (which lasts 4 months).
  • You can make money on the go. I actually use Etsy to make money and travel at the same time! I choose my own work hours, which means I can work before I go out sightseeing or when I get back in the evenings. Flexibility for the win!
  • Your shop stays open 24/7. There’s no need to man a desk to keep your shop running, and it’s so easy to maintain as there’s barely any upkeep.
  • All payments are sorted out for you. Credit card, PayPal, and Etsy gift cards are all accepted through Etsy’s payment gateway.
  • You can pause your shop to take a vacation. I closed my shop twice during 2014 for travel to New Zealand in March and Bali in August.

Convinced? You should be! Here’s a brief 6-step guide on opening an Etsy shop of your own (I say brief, but it’s actually not that short. I could spend hours going into detail on each point but hey, we ain’t got time for that now).

Selling on Etsy

1. Pick a killer product

Every shop needs a product, so what will you be selling? Services, or physical products?

Most travellers tend to choose something that they can sell from anywhere, but if you’re not travelling long-term then you can look into physical products and sell them in the times between your travels.

Etsy has strict policies on what can and can’t be sold, and you must be careful not to breach copyright with your products. Here’s a guide on what you can sell on Etsy.

Some ideas for services or digital products:

  • Digital designs
  • Patterns
  • Vectors
  • Photos
  • Graphic Design

Some ideas for physical products:

Etsy’s customers are looking for handmade, unique, quality products, so keep this in mind when choosing what you will sell. I’ve purchased a number of products from other Etsy sellers, including a wedding band for my husband, jewellery (for me!), and gifts for family members.

It’s a good idea to brainstorm a bunch of product ideas before getting started. Try to think of ideas that are either different or better than what’s already available on Etsy. This way, your product will stand out above the rest!

2. Open your shop

Head here to register with Etsy. You’ll be prompted to fill in your details, and set up your online space.

Brand your shop so that people know what they’re stepping into. Imagine someone walking into a physical store; they’re going to look for what the shop is called, and what the shop sells.

You can do this by picking a name for your shop, creating a logo, adding a header image, and adding a shop announcement to let people know what you sell. You can also create shop sections for categories of products.

Create shop policies so that people know what to expect when they buy your product. I have a list of FAQs, a refund policy, and shipping/delivery information in my policies.

Treat it like a part-time job. It does take a little time to properly set up an Etsy shop, so don’t expect to be able to do it in an afternoon. I’ve spent a lot of time working on designs, uploading them to Etsy, improving my listings, and making my shop look spick and span.

Trip Map on Etsy

3. Create images for your products

Your listing images are a huge deal. They are going to be the deciding factor for a customer considering your product, so you’d better make sure they’re damn good.

Use the best camera you can get your hands on. I actually bought my DSLR initially to use for product photography, and it was absolutely worth it!

Make sure you’re in a space with plenty of natural light (but not in direct sunlight otherwise you’ll get harsh shadows). Once you’ve taken some photos, check that they’ve come out clear and crisp. Make sure there are no distracting objects in the background, and make the surrounding area as clean as possible.

Try to make the viewer visualise that they already own the product. If you’re selling jewellery, photograph someone wearing it. If you’re selling art, photograph it hanging on your living room wall.

Create digital images. If you’re selling services or digital products you can also make digital images for your products. I create these for some products and photograph others, and have had success with both – so do whatever you’re most comfortable with.

4. List your products

So you’ve set up your shop and prepared your products, now you’re ready to list them on Etsy! The listings manager is where you can begin.

Fill your shop with products. Generally, the more products you shop has, the more likely people will buy from you. Try and have at least 10 products in your shop when you get started. I’ve slowly built up to about 60 products over the years.

Use all your keywords. These will be help people find your product when they’re using the search bar. A great way to figure out which keywords will be useful is to type the name of your product into the search bar, and see what suggestions comes up. These are the terms people search for most.

Price accordingly. Don’t undersell yourself! No matter what you might think your product is worth, you have to realise you’ve put time and effort into creating it.

I estimate how much time each product will take me to put together, including the time I would spend on dealing with enquiries and making changes, and then multiply this by my hourly rate for graphic design.

Working from home as a freelancer

5. Market your shop

Optimise Etsy search. Many of my customers find my shop through a search on Etsy, which means I don’t have to do any advertising. All you have to do is make sure you’ve got great listing images and are using appropriate keywords.

Etsy also has a pay-per-click advertising program. I’ve had a little success with this, but not all that much.

Use Pinterest. I opened a Pinterest account for my brand and created a bunch of boards that would appeal to people interested in my products. This has been a major source of traffic for my shop and I’ve managed to get plenty of sales through it.

Try other social media platforms. I also created a Facebook page for my brand but didn’t have much luck with it, though that’s not to say it won’t work for everyone. I also know of a few Etsy sellers who have huge followings on Instagram, so if you’ve got time to put together regular posts then this may be a great option for getting your products out into the world.

6. Analyse your shop performance

Check your stats in your shop dashboard. This was critical step for me in discovering that people often typed in printable and travel into the search field. I then added these keywords to my listings and created products that would appeal to people using these search terms.

Trial and error. It was many months before I made my first sale on Etsy, and it was honestly through just adding new products and doing a lot of research to see what worked. Once I’d figured out my niche market (DIY printable invitations and stationery) I was able to create more products that catered for that market.

Be professional. A huge part of running a good Etsy shop is to maintain a stellar image to your potential customers. Make sure all your listing descriptions are easy to read and have no spelling errors. Answer enquiries as you would if you were speaking to another professional – using slang, smiley faces, or grammatical errors will more than likely chase away your customers.

Encourage feedback. Etsy has a review system that allows people to see what other customers have said about your shop, and this makes a huge difference when people are considering buying something from you. Once someone has made a purchase, follow them up a week or so later to see if they have any feedback and to ask if they can leave you a review.

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