Whether you want to start an Etsy store for fun, as a creative project or to make some extra money, it’s important to understand the reality of what it takes to build a successful shop. During my first month on Etsy, I made $0, but I didn’t give up. I held out and kept refining my shop, and by the time the Holiday Season rolled around, I ended up earning $1000 that first year.
That might not seem like much, but it was all the validation I needed to know that I had a potential successful business on my hands, and that my hard work was actually starting to pay off. However ,the road to that first thousand was paved with frustration, fear and second-guessing myself, and while I knew that with some patience the shop could take off, there were definitely times I wanted to give up.
Thank goodness I stuck with it though, as only a few years later I was able to run my Etsy Shop and website full time! In the last few years I’ve learned a ton and I love sharing my story and experience to help others grow and persevere through difficult moments.
I started my Etsy shop on a complete whim. I didn’t know anything about embroidery, eCommerce, Etsy or even how to start/run an online business, but what I did know was that Fall was on it’s way and I wanted a new, tartan scarf monogrammed with my initials! I searched long and hard to find this imaginary scarf, but kept hitting dead ends. That’s when I decided to take matters into my own hands and make it myself!
Armed with a scarf and a cheap embroidery machine I set off to create the monogrammed scarf I’d been dreaming of. After a long process of learning how to use and configure the machine, it was finally complete and upon my very first day of wearing it, I received compliments left and right! All of my friends wanted one too, and I figured if they liked it, maybe others would as well!
Eventually I opened up a very basic Etsy shop where I sold only one type of scarf with one font. I can’t stress enough how incredibly basic and simple it was! However, once I just took the leap and jumped in, I was motivated to keep adding, growing and making my shop better and better.
It took about a month and finally I saw my first sale roll in. Then another, and another, until finally, I eventually earned $1000. I know this isn’t much, however it was all the validation I needed to know I had a great idea on my hands and I should keep going!
I kept working on the business and over the next few years my business only kept growing! Eventually I hit a 25K year, which for a side hustle isn’t bad! This was also in addition to starting my website so between the two it’s been an incredible journey!
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Having a successful Etsy business has not only been a great asset financially, but also emotionally. I have such pride in this business that I created from nothing, with no help and essentially no money. I spend very little on advertising and have grown my business using primarily organic social media, word of mouth and some lucky Etsy features.
Regardless, the main ingredient in my success has been my perseverance and hard work. There are so many promises out there to get rich quick and that’s just not how it works. If you want to build a business that makes money AND you’re proud of, passion, hard work and perseverance are key!
In hopes to help you create the same, I’ve put together this guide with some advice, tips and tricks to help you get your first sales rolling in!
JUST START YOUR ETSY SHOP
I remember that I spent a lot of time thinking about starting a business but not actually doing it! This is common and often referred to as “Analysis Paralysis”. It’s easy and much less scary to stay in our heads and not take action in the real world, but the truth is, you won’t know if you have a business if you don’t try.
Now, I’m not saying to go all-in right away, but I suggest testing to see if what you’re selling even resonates with potential customers. I tested my business by only posting one scarf style to start. This allowed me to hold very little inventory and experiment to see if anyone even wanted to buy one! After I sold a few, I knew this scarf style had potential, so I ordered more AND added a new style to test. I slowly tested and added until I started to better understand my customer.
Don’t let what you don’t know hold you back from starting an Etsy Shop. We’re blessed with the internet and can self-learn just about anything these days! When I first started my business there was SO much I didn’t know, but I didn’t let that stop me from trying.
If I couldn’t figure something out I would Google it or search for a Youtube tutorial. There are so many amazing blogs dedicated to Etsy and growing your business, as well as the more technical aspects, that you’d be hard pressed to NOT be able to find what information you’re seeking. Etsy also has an incredible Seller Handbook that has SO much valuable information. If you’re planning to start an Etsy shop, it’s a must read! You can check it out here.
GET YOUR DUCKS IN A ROW
One of the most important pieces of advice I can lend while building your Etsy business, is doing the best you can to get your shop and products in the best shape possible. You want to work with the Etsy algorithm to make sure your products will show up in the search pages (although Etsy does not share their algorithm, they do share search tips here).
The following two posts will give you a plethora of information you’ll need to create incredible listings that are up to par with what Etsy is looking for.
REMAIN OPEN MINDED & ADAPTABLE
Buyers are the validators. They’re the ones that tell the sellers what they want, not the other way around. As sellers we might think we have the best product in the world, but if no one is buying, that tells us a lot! We need to be open to this type of feedback and willing to adapt.
Sometimes scarves that I LOVED and “knew” would be best sellers totally flopped! And sometimes a scarf that I didn’t think would be a top seller would end up selling out over and over! As a seller we can only do our best to guess what people might like, but in the end, they’re the ones who will tell us by using their dollars to cast their vote! A smart business owner realizes this and is willing to give the sellers more of what they want instead of vice versa.
LISTEN TO YOUR CUSTOMERS
One huge lesson I learned is that it’s integral to listen to your customers when you receive messages, requests or feedback. Customers were the source of inspiration of many products that I created because they sent me messages just merely asking if I sold them. If I’d receive a product request twice, my ears would perk up and I’d seriously consider creating this product. After all, if two people are looking for something and can’t find it, it must mean others are as well!
I also received great feedback from my customers by way of reviews and complaint messages. Even though it can be hard to get this type of feedback, it can be SO useful in helping you become a better business owner. I can’t tell you how many times I got messages from customers that helped me improve my product, listings and other areas of my business. Owning a business means constant refinement and negative customer feedback can lead to more positive feedback down the road.
DON’T LET A BAD MONTH GET YOU DOWN
Business is business. There will be good months and there will be bad months and that’s OK. Especially after the holidays it can be a hard realization that sales might drop off for a while. Every seller goes through a slump once in a while and the important thing to remember is, don’t get hung up on it.
Instead, use the down time to refine your shop, work on new products or prepare for upcoming holidays. Another great thing you can do during the down time is work on your marketing strategy and figure out new ways to spread awareness of your products.
What sellers often don’t realize is that the downtime is often integral for growing a business. it gives you the time and space to focus on new ways you can expand. Therefore when you hit your first slump, embrace it instead of worrying. Sales will eventually pick up again and you’ll forget it even happened!
USE A MISTAKE TO YOUR ADVANTAGE
For every seller, at some point, a mistake will happen. Whether it’s your fault or not, it’s always important to handle it with grace. Mistakes and complaints are always an opportunity to turn around the experience for the buyer and you can oftentimes leave them happier and ever grateful for awesome customer service.
In my business, I’ve often times had to deal taking the loss on re-sending out orders that were lost, stolen or damaged while in transit. When you provide excellent customer service to customers they oftentimes spread the good word OR shop with you again. Of course you must do this with discretion, but in my experience I have run into very people who have tried to take advantage of this.
- Ultimate List of Etsy Seller eBooks and Digital Products
- 20+ Etsy Seller Facebook Groups to Join Today
In the end starting an Etsy shop and getting it to the point of it being successful has been an incredible challenge, but one that I would gladly do again! It’s definitely one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but one of the most rewarding. In the process not only did I create a business, but all of these unexpected externalities can come into your life such as new friends, opportunities, experiences and even new business ideas!
You never know where the road might lead when deciding to start a business. It does take a lot of courage and the willingness to be vulnerable, but if you can get past that and do the work, truly anything is possible!