Most people who decide to start a home-based Etsy business don’t know everything that needs to go into it. They may think that working from home will give them a creative outlet and maybe bring in some income.
What they don’t count on is the fact that working from home is a lot harder than having a 9-5 job where you can come home and get away from work.
I asked members of my Facebook business groups what things they wish they had known when they were wondering about starting an Etsy shop. Their responses, and my thoughts about them, are below.
Table of Contents
- Should I start an Etsy Shop?
- Learn how Etsy SEO and the system work.
- Understand your business setup and get mentoring.
- Understand your Etsy pricing.
- Do market research for your products.
- Invest in the right equipment.
- Learn about marketing your business.
- Get motivated to succeed.
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Should I start an Etsy Shop?
If you’re wondering whether you should start an Etsy shop, the first thing to ask yourself is why you want to do it.
You need to understand that selling on Etsy isn’t easy, it’s not passive, and you won’t be successful if you don’t put effort into it.
If you’re willing to put work into starting a shop, then you might be able to earn some money through selling on the platform.
However, if you’re listening to people online who are saying how easy it is to make money selling on Etsy, you might be very disappointed.
If you have a realistic expectation about the amount of effort that will need to go into it, selling on Etsy can be a good source of income, but it’s not easy.
The Etsy sellers who answer the questions below are all established shop owners, so read on to see what advice they have for prospective sellers.
Learn how Etsy SEO and the system work.
Knowing what the platform you’re selling on requires from you is important. If you don’t give the system what it wants, you can’t expect to get good results. If you pour water into a gas tank the car won’t go, you need the right fuel to get anywhere. You need to research what makes the system work before you set up shop on whatever platform you decide to use. Jumping right in and learning as you go is fine, but you have to make time to do the learning part of it
- I would do more research on how to do SEO and Etsy photos. Editing nearly 200 after realizing that the way I thought I should be doing it is ridiculously time-consuming!!! –Gemma Giffin
- Everything I was taught seemed to leave out one of the most important things…SEO! I’m kicking myself because of all the research I did on EVERYTHING else but SEO. Start learning it from day one. –Laura Michael
- I wish I had spent time learning SEO and Social Media Marketing from the beginning. Our business grew haphazardly on my part. I have to give God ALL the credit! I just built our own website. That was an undertaking. -Frankie King Allen
- I wish I had all my ducks lined up first before going live in my shop. For example: learning how Etsy SEO works, taking great pics (omg when I first started my pics was simply horrible) I also wish I had known about FB groups that is when I started seeing some improvement in my shop as well. –Cathy Ivers
- I wish that I hadn’t opened a second Etsy store but instead just kept all of my products in one to capitalize on the traffic and avoid having to double up on print materials and marketing. I wish I had known that only a small % of people go to your shop to check out all your listings. The individual listings are what really matter. – Christina Hilpipre-Frischman
- I would have banked at least 20-30 listings BEFORE I opened my revamped shop for business. I had decided to go in a slightly different direction with my products, and was so excited to open the shop, it sat there with only a few listings for months. An empty store does not inspire customers to bookmark for return visits. –Nanette Thorell
- I wish I had started by reading the seller’s handbook instead of advice from forums. Even though it is a lengthy read it would have been time-saving in the end. By taking a short cut I have spent way more time trying things that do not work. –Deboroah Kay Conrad Halcomb
- I’ve just started my second shop, but with my first, I wish I would have had a longer turnaround time on made-to-order items. Buyers of handmade products are usually very understanding of the processing time, and instead of working myself to the ground I could have extended my turnaround time and my customers would have understood. – Krissa Larsson
- I just wish I started sooner. I was so focused on releasing a perfect collection, and if I could do it over I would test individual products on Etsy. I also would focus more on what’s popular and selling instead of unique. –Laura Michael
Understand your business setup and get mentoring.
Whether it’s a business mentor, accountant, attorney, marketing pro or website designer, you need people you can turn to when you have questions. Facebook groups are good places to start, but they can be full of people who are very confused, or who work in industries that are totally different from yours. Joining my public facebook group for home-based business owners is a good place to start for good advice!
- I would have jumped in more wholeheartedly. I am, by nature, extremely cheap. Spending money on courses to get the knowledge quickly that I found by hunt & peck and so much TIME would have been smarter. I am still too cheap, but I take the info I get with a grain of salt; I have seen some real doozies come down the pike. Kara knows her stuff! –Ginger Morgan
- My advice to someone with a new business is to find a mentor or a good business course to learn how to market your business. I wasted so much money trying things, and it would have been better to pick the one plan to follow and focus on doing just that. –Ann Deome Nolen
- I wish I would have stuck with you 2.5 years ago when I first started following you on YouTube and Marmalead. I am happy I finally made it back. –Glenda Shafer Carlson
- I opened my shop first and started learning the steps I should have done before opening the shop, after… I wish I sorted everything out first. –Gabriella Kis-Warren
- It is basic, but I wish I had set up my separate bank account, accounting software, etc before selling anything. It isn’t just the proper way to do it, but it’s soooo much easier to manage. –Susan Rodriguez
- I wish I had more fully investigated all the administrative and legal issues associated with running a business out of my home. Finding out a few years ago that I had been putting my family at risk because I hadn’t bought commercial insurance was a real shocker. –Karen Phillips
- Honestly, I would have educated myself a lot more on the actual basics of running a small business. Perhaps found a coach/teacher earlier on. I’ve been coasting along and wish I would have taken a more proactive approach and sought some guidance. When you start out, you don’t know what you don’t know. Now I feel like I’m playing catch-up. –Megan Beachum
Understand your Etsy pricing.
The biggest mistake I see home-based businesses making is pricing their items too low. Just because you work from home doesn’t mean your prices should be low. If you’re making things by hand, or you’re taking time to source vintage items or supplies that aren’t readily available in brick-and-mortar stores, you should charge a price that reflects the time, ability, experience and talent that goes into producing those items.
- I used to price my vintage items too low because I didn’t think anyone would pay what they were really worth. But vintage items can be rare and if someone really wants something, they’ll pay for its true value, you might just have to wait a bit longer to sell it. – Palma McKeown
- I wish I would have raised my prices more so my hand wouldn’t fall off hand drawing everything around the holidays. Extend shipping turnaround times and pencil-proof times. -Ella Cordial Brocklesby
- I spent quite a long time working out what to sell and at what price; I don’t lack time or skill, but I had little idea of what other people would like and how much they would pay. My advice would be to go with what you’re good at and do loads of research to find your USP. –Anne Donovan
- I’m sure you’ve heard this already, but I should have charged more for stuff. I was worried about being too pricey. Now I know it is better to be priced in the middle or higher end. –Lea Puckett
- Don’t be afraid to raise your prices when you need to. That’s one of the most common things I see people do that gets them into trouble, and they end up making less than minimum wage because of it. -Kara Buntin
Do market research for your products.
Doing market research isn’t just “age-income-interests” demographics. You need to figure out who’s buying your products and WHY they’re buying them. When you look into the stats you might find out that your customers aren’t who you think they are at all. If that’s the case, you might need to figure out why they’re buying your items, because it might not be why you think it is.
- I would have researched my market much more thoroughly before starting. For example, my target market wants straightforward talk, and healthy, earth-friendly options (even the packaging). I’m in the process of redoing my shop for the 3rd (and hopefully the last) time. –Cindy Kellum Hardwick
- I wish I had done more target market research. Spent more time ironing out what it meant for my pricing, the overall look of my shop and my brand. –Cara Delia
Invest in the right equipment.
It’s not uncommon for people who are starting a new business to try to bootstrap it and just not spend money on equipment, software, or training that could help grow their business. While that’s fine when you’re trying to save money, sometimes you’ll make more money by investing in better machinery, taking good training courses, or using better software. Investing a little can save a lot of time and effort down the road.
- I would have automated the import of my listings. It saves a lot of time and avoids mistakes. Oh, and I would have bought more material stock to be able to fulfill the orders on time. –Liene Ratniece
- I wish I had invested in the right machinery sooner! I was getting by with DIY hacks and workarounds as I thought it would be cheaper. Investing in the proper machinery has nearly quadrupled production! –Gemma Compton
- I wish I had given samples to friends to try out before I made and listed 25 pet bow ties. I discovered that my product didn’t ship very well and needed instructions on how to prep it for use after it had arrived at the buyer’s house. It was actually a good thing to happen early on, because I was able to redesign the size, shape, and style of the bow tie and ended up with a product that I’m so very proud of and looks very cute on dogs and cats! –Sally Field-Leal ,
- I’d say I wished I knew it’s all about the buyers! It’s simple psychology, but I was raised to believe it’s all about the artist and because I didn’t like to be in the spotlight, we made it about the artwork. Apparently wrong, lol. I was foaming about people labeling digital as real watercolors and trying to educate buyers it’s not the same (by underlining our product is real watercolor etc.). So now we’re trying to figure out what is the important stuff. –Vasilena Nikiforova
Learn about marketing your business.
It’s the hardest thing to face up to, but owning a business is 90% marketing and 10% fun stuff. Knowing where to put your time is the problem, because no matter how much you do to market your business, there will always be more that you could be doing.
- I wish I hadn’t listened to all of the gurus at the time that insisted that Etsy was a terrible place to be & that I had to have my own website on day one to be taken seriously. All that time I spent learning code in the early days could have been time spent creating. —Amy Friend
- Listing items should be the last step to opening a store! I mentored many who never took the time to fill out profiles, and upload avatars. Those elements are absolutely necessary and so often overlooked. Would you pull up to a store with no signage or anything and go inside to shop? Probably not. –Cindy Santana
- I would have kept up with the times. When I started my website in 1995, there really wasn’t much social media, no knowledge of SEO, and not a butt-load of competition. You just submitted your site to the search engines, and that was that. Until a few years ago, that was where my head was, and everyone passed me. I didn’t use social media for my business, and I didn’t worry about SEO. Big mistakes. You have to keep learning about what works because things change so rapidly. –Jason King
- I wish I had learned more about email marketing and started an email list 6 years ago. –Melissa Talbott
- I wish I had thought a little harder about the name of the shop so it would reflect what I make in a clear way. Also checking to make sure my domain was available would have been good. –Kristine Beaulieu
- I regret not taking classes in marketing and having a shop earlier. It should have saved me so much time and frustration. I thought marketing was posting on Facebook or social media. It’s so much more than that, so much more. –Sandra Tornroth
- I would have started wholesaling all my supplies from the beginning. I also would have diversified where I sell instead of relying completely on Etsy for my income, besides a craft fair here and there. –Megan Allyce Howard
- Knowing your end result is worth all the effort. Not just having a quality item you’re selling, but the packing your buyer sees first is what I wish I knew. When I started years ago I used to add my bags to a poly mailer and get them out as fast as I could. –Mary Avelis
Get motivated to succeed.
Knowing why you want to have a business is the tough question. On the surface, it might look like you want to make more money. But it’s usually deeper than that. It could be that you want to be independent, or that you want to prove to someone that you can be successful, or that you want to get back at that high school bully who said you weren’t smart enough.
What motivates you can also hold you back, and sometimes running a business will be hard because you start holding yourself back without realizing it. And sometimes it’s just a matter of time management and trying to do too much! Incorporating your interests and fundraising for causes that are important to you in your business can combine two things and let you contribute to organizations while working.
- I wish I had jumped in with both feet instead of acting like it was just a hobby. I learned I needed to make my shop like an actual job I would leave the house to work in. I learned to get up, get the kids out the door and go into my work area and cut out time just for my business whether it be making items, researching SEO marketing, tracking inventory etc. Once I gave my business the respect it deserved my sales picked up quickly!—Amy Koza
- I wish had more time for the shop, handmade work, my daughter, and a cat I rescued I few days ago …I need a day of 48 hours. Also, I’m working for Awareness of Ehlers-Danlos syndrome and Marfan. –Iris Isla
- I wouldn’t have paid ALL the attention to everyone who had something negative to say. Common sense and self-esteem are important issues to take into account. –Ercilla Mendez Lynch
- I wish I wasn’t so afraid to do things when I first started. Fear stopped me from doing so much. I was afraid to list a product, afraid to make a video, afraid to write and send an email. I realized that you learn by doing and people don’t expect you to be perfect. They will like you for you and if they don’t, they will unsubscribe, buy elsewhere and move on. That’s okay. It is not a personal attack on you, and it does not define your self-worth. You learn by doing, so take a deep breath, turn that nervousness into excitement and do it! Make the mistake, learn and grow, grow, grow! You need to get out of your own way to truly shine! Shine your light because the world needs you to be yourself! -Jes Ware
If you’d like to join my public Facebook group for home-based businesses, go to https://www.facebook.com/groups/HomeBasedBusinessAndEtsyTips/
For marketing and home-based business tips, plus classes on marketing and motivation, go to https://turtlewinstherace.com
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