Even if you’re only slightly familiar with e-commerce, chances are you’ve heard of Etsy. In case you haven’t heard of it, Etsy is a site where people sell their own handmade arts and crafts, with a notable emphasis on jewelry and apparel. Whether you’ve purchased something from the website or just browsed its many different offerings, Etsy is a treasure trove of crafty goodness. It also proves that if you can make something, chances are there is someone out there willing to buy it. 

Getting started on Etsy is actually fairly easy, as the site offers a lot of resources to aid new and current shop owners. Let’s take a look at the things you need to know when selling on Etsy.

1. Understand What You Can and Can’t Sell 

Etsy was started as a marketplace for handmade crafts, and the majority of products sold on the site are still handmade by people working out of their homes. It is still a requirement that all items on Etsy be either handmade, vintage (20 years or older) or craft supplies that can be used to create another handmade product. “Handmade” also extends to digital files, as many Etsy sellers create invitations or other creations that can be customized and printed at home by the buyer. Etsy does have a list of prohibited items that cannot be sold on the site. It’s best to take a look and make sure your desired product isn’t on the list before setting up an Etsy storefront. 

2. Know the Lingo 

If you decide to sell something on the site, you’ll be considered a “shop owner,” which means you’ll have to open a shop, complete with a shop name. You’ll want your shop name to be as unique and descriptive as possible. Etsy will not allow two shops with the same name to co-exist, so you’ll need to find something unique. It is possible to change your shop name after you sign up, but it’s really best to think of a good one from the beginning and stick with it. 

3. Learn to Take Really Good Photos 

If you’re serious about selling your stuff on Etsy and are looking to make some income off your talents, then learning how to take appealing photos of your wares is a good start. Scroll through Etsy listings, and you’ll see product images that are downright works of art. Spend some time to invest in a good camera, a clear spot to take the photos and understand the effects of lighting. All of these things will make or break your images. Etsy knows how important images are, and its blog has multiple posts on tips and tricks for making your products really stand out. 

4. Watch Your Pricing, and Know Your Fees 

Of course, you want to make money, and of course, you want to charge something for your creativity and time, but you have to make sure you’re pricing your products competitively in order to get the most from your Etsy storefront. Etsy’s search algorithm is pretty robust, so spend some time looking for products similar to yours to get a feel for the going rate. Also, look at the shops that are successfully selling a decent amount of product. What are they charging? How are they handling shipping? Spend time evaluating the cost of making your products, and factor in your time before deciding on a final price. You want to make sure that you’re actually profiting from the transactions. 

Another thing to consider when pricing your products are the fees that Etsy charges for using the site. Postings cost $0.20 to post or renew, which isn’t that terrible, but once an item has been sold, Etsy will charge a transaction fee of 3.5% of the selling price. Neither of these charges is particularly egregious, but they can affect your profit margin, especially in the long term if you do not account for them. 

5. Know Your Potential Tax Liability 

In order to comply with laws that regulate payment processors, Etsy is required to send you an IRS Form 1099-K if your calendar year sales are over $20,000 U.S. and you received 200 or more payments through its Direct Checkout service. Etsy’s help article on taxes points out that your goods will only be taxed on profits made, but it will be your responsibility to figure that out when tax season rolls around. 

6. Get Good at Writing Product Descriptions 

While the product photo will undoubtedly attract people to your listing, a solid, well-written product description can convince someone to buy your product. Again, Etsy’s Seller Handbook has many recommendations for how to write stellar product descriptions. Some of the key things to remember include:

  • Use an inverted pyramid: Put the most important information at the top of the description; that way, if someone only reads the first few sentences, they’ll still know all the pertinent facts.
  • Don’t be afraid of bullet points: Bullet points make it easier for people to skim your listing and find the information they need.
  • Focus on the customer: Why does the customer need or want your product over others? Don’t just focus on the facts of the product; focus on its benefits and the details that make it unique.
  • For a course on improving business writing, click here

7. Brush Up on Intellectual Property Laws 

If you plan on selling original handcrafted goods, creative works or anything that uses your buisness’ original logo, it’s best to apply for the relevant intellectual property protection for your goods and other original works (i.e. trademarks for logos and brand names, copyrights for creative works or patents for inventions, innovations, products, etc.). This can give you legal recourse if another person or business steals your intellectual property. Conversely, Etsy is very sensitive to allegations of intellectual property infringement, and the site may shut down your store if legitimate accusations are levied against your brand or its offerings. 

8. Understand the Types of Support Etsy Offers 

Aside from their comprehensive Seller’s Handbook and blog, Etsy makes it easy for you to promote your shop through social media plugins and search ads. Etsy also keeps tabs on your shop stats by tracking your shop views, revenue, orders and more. All of this information can be invaluable when you’re just starting out or even as you try to grow your shop. 

9. Treat Your Etsy Shop Like a Storefront 

Just because your shop lives on the internet doesn’t mean you should treat it any differently than a brick-and-mortar storefront. Promote your shop via Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and other social networks; encourage friends and family to shop and spread the word; offer promotions and sales at high volume times like the holidays; put older products on clearance to make way for new stuff, etc. Just about everything you can and would do with a physical storefront is what you should do with your Etsy shop. 

Your Etsy shop may be your 1st or 50th entry into e-commerce, but it can be quite a viable option for entrepreneurs looking for a readymade site that does the heavy lifting for you. With your shopping cart and checkout functionality already built in, the only thing you really need to do is set your sights on posting your products and making sales