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How to Start an Etsy Shop - A Step-By-Step Guide

Updated on April 27, 2012

So you're taking the plunge and starting that Etsy shop that you always dreamed of.  Fantastic!  You have all your materials, packaging, and bits n' bobs that you'll need when orders start rolling in.  But where do you begin? And what's all this Etsy jargon?  

Before you go cross-eyed at all the technicalities of starting to sell online with Etsy, read our step-by-step guide on how to effectively set-up your shop.

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STEP 1 - Choose a username and shop name

Having a great name that you love is great, but you'll also want something that is picked up by search engines, memorable to customers, and on topic with what you're selling. Your username and shop name should match as much as possible as not to confuse buyers when searching for you. If you have numerous words in your username, try capitalizing the words (i.e. TheScarfStore) for easy readability. Remember to choose a name wisely as this cannot be changed later. And don't forget to check for legalities or stores with similar names. Try to be a unique as possible without getting too gimmicky!

STEP 2 - Create a banner and avatar

So you're either Photoshop savvy or you're not. If you're not, no worries. You can either choose one of Etsy's ready-made banners, or you can go in search of Etsy sellers who will produce one for you. There are many Etsy sellers who sell ready-made banners and avatars or create a custom set just for you.

If you are Photoshop savvy, remember to try and create an engaging banner and avatar. Banners need to be 760 x 100 pixels, RGB, and either jpg, png or gif.

STEP 3 - Write your bio and shop announcement

A profile page is something that a lot of sellers overlook when creating their Etsy shop. Not writing a bio is a missed opportunity to market yourself. You'll want your bio to be friendly but professional at the same time. What should you include? Tell them about yourself. Do you craft for a living? What is the inspiration behind your products? What's special about them? Let them get to know you and make them feel at home in your shop.

Setup Bio - Your Etsy > Profile > Bio

Setup Announcement - Your Etsy > Shop Settings > Info & Appearance > Shop Announcement

STEP 4 - Set your location and shipping profiles

One of the features for Etsy buyers is to search locally. By setting your location, this gives you the opportunity to easily gain exposure. This is a particularly great tool during the holidays when people need a gift fast. Don't forget to add your city, province or state, country and even your continent.

It is your decision on where in the world to ship your products. Some sellers may ship worldwide while others are only comfortable shipping within their own country. By creating a shipping profile, you can determine shipping costs by size, weight, and shipping methods, and then quickly add the shipping information when listing an item. You may want to take a variety of items to the post office to determine shipping costs for different sized and weighted products.

Setup Location - Your Etsy > Profile > Country, City & Location

Setup Shipping Profiles - Your Etsy > Shipping & Payment > Shipping Profiles

STEP 5 - Set up payment methods

So, how do you want to be paid by your customer? Etsy gives you 4 options - Paypal, Money Order, Personal Check or Other. Other was created for you to use for payments like gift certificates. Gift certificates are a great gift idea, especially when the buyer is in a rush. Have a look at this article about creating and selling gift certificates in your shop.

The most commonly used method of payment is definitely Paypal. It is safe, secure, and customers don't need an account to pay by credit card. Please note, Paypal takes a commission for using their service, but it's well worth it. To set up your Paypal account, visit Paypal here.

Setup Payments - Your Etsy > Shop Settings > Shipping and Payment > Payment Methods

STEP 6 - Write your policies and message to buyers

Shop policies are a great way for customers to read the small print before buying with your store. Important information that they need to know can be contained in your shop policy, i.e. refunds & exchanges, lead times, etc. You want to be as detailed as possible without scaring anyone away.

Message to Buyers is a message given to a buyer at the receipt page after they have purchased from your shop. This is a great spot to say thank you, give dispatch and delivery information, your contact information, or even present them with a coupon code for their next purchase. You may also want to place a link for your shop policies in your Message to Buyers or item listings for quick reference for your customer.

Setup Shop Policies - your Etsy > Info & Appearance > Policies Tab

Setup Message to Buyers - Your Etsy > Info & Appearance > Scroll to the bottom of the page

STEP 7- Set up shop sections

Whether you have an abundance of products in your shop, or only a few, shop sections are a great way for buyers to find what they're looking for. Items can be separated into color, size, or description. This is also a great way to separate promotions, like sales, fast shipping, or seasonal items.

Setup Sections - Your Etsy > Shop Settings > Info & Appearance > Sections

STEP 8 - Listing your items with great photos and descriptions

First and foremost, your photos are the most important part of your shop. You need to create clear, well lit and descriptive photos for your items. Use all 5 photo slots that you have available on a listing and take photos that tell a story about your product. Pretend that there isn't an item description. What do you want to show in your pictures? How can the buyers use this item? When lighting, you don't need any fancy lightboxes or lighting. Your best friend is natural daylight and a clean surface. If you are adding props to your image, remember not to add anything that will fight your item for attention.

Descriptions are key to getting as much information across to the buyer and essentially wooing them into buying your product. Try to keep your descriptions clear, concise, and to the point. Use bullets for key points, but don't go crazy with elaborate characters. Add links for similar products in your store, your policies, or upgrades that they can purchase. Try to only add links that will keep them in your shop.

STEP 9 - Tag your items efficiently

One of the most common problems sellers have is not tagging their items properly, which leads to little or no visits to their shop. Tags are keywords used to find you, either by searching in Etsy or search engines like Google. By having keywords that people are looking for, your products will be found much easier. Add tags that will describe the color, material, technique, style, size, who they would buy it for, and where it can be used. Tagging is important not only for customers to find you, but also other Etsians who may want to feature your product on their blog or treasury.

Tagtastic is a great tool to help you narrow down tags and find out what will generate a high volume of views. Simply search a descriptive keyword for your item, and they will show you related tags and the average views per day. You can use the Tagtastic tool here. You can later refine your tags by viewing the search results for your viewed items with Craftopolis' Tag Report which you can check out here.

STEP 10 - Set featured items

Etsy gives sellers 4 slots at the top of their shop for featured items. This is a great place to feature best sellers, sales, or incentives. To set up your featured items, go to Your Etsy, scroll to the item that you want to feature, then click the star under the featured column.

After setting up your shop, why not head over to the Etsy Forum and ask your fellow Etsians for a critique? It's a great place to meet fellow artisans and potential buyers!


How long did it take you to get your first sale on Etsy?

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