The true benefit of a marketplace model is that it offers immense visibility for your brand. While major marketplaces like Amazon and eBay top the visibility game, not all retailers may be immensely successful there. For example, a retailer dealing with handmade products, vintage goods and decor items is looking to sell to a very specific audience segment. Such retailers don’t need to be seen by every single person. Instead, they need to be seen by people who appreciate and value the product enough to want to own it. Enter Etsy.

guide to selling on etsy

Etsy is an exclusive marketplace for those who like to build a business with their senses. Do you buy, curate and refurbish vintage objects? Are you good with your hands? Are you a designer, an illustrator, a figurine-maker, a potter, a painter, a writer? If so, selling on Etsy can help you turn your passion into a viable business.

In this guide, we show you how you can be Etsy-ready, how to amp up sales on Etsy as well as a few things to keep in mind before you begin.

Are Your Etsy-Ready?

Before you jump at the lucrative offer of making money with something you know how to do, you need to decide if Etsy really is for you. Thankfully, as a platform, it is very straightforward to set up and use. All you need is a PayPal account to accept payments, good pictures and a small fee you pay upfront.

So, what questions should you be asking before setting up the Etsy shop?

are you etsy ready

Do I have time?

Selling on Etsy involves managing the inventory, shipping and delivery all by yourself. Etsy is only ever a platform on which you receive orders. How you fulfil them is up to you. Most patrons on Etsy are willing to wait for their custom-made product to be ready. That said, you should still aim to keep all local shipments within a few weeks and international ones to within a month or so.

If you do choose to offer international shipping, you need a thorough understanding of the customs laws in each country and how your product’s price will change based on them.

If what you provide is a digital template, such as the soft copy of a customized wedding card, your timelines will be much shorter. As orders begin to come in, Etsy can well become your new full-time job. Customers almost always message sellers for more details before buying anything, and not answering is a direct loss in business.

So the first question you need to answer is if that is indeed your vision. Unless it is, you will simply not have the time to juggle a day job and Etsy sales. You can certainly begin on a smaller scale, but the number of orders you receive is really not up to you. So if you receive a bulk order, it could take up more of your time than originally planned for.

Have I thought about logistics?

When you sell on Etsy, you have to fulfil all of the orders by yourself. When it comes to logistics, here’s what you need to think about:

  • How will I fulfil my domestic and international orders? What timelines will I stick to?
  • Who will my shipping partners be? Should I opt for expensive, yet dependable partners or is a slightly cheaper, but perhaps not as dependable partner good enough?
  • If I begin to produce and sell in bulk, how do I store my creations? Is a warehouse model right for me, or should I only produce stuff once I have an order for them?
  • For products that you will be emailing to clients, how to you ensure that they do not further use it for commercial gain? Or, if you intend for them to use it for commercial gain, how should you price the product?

These are some questions you should consider before deciding to sell on Etsy. Like most other marketplaces, Etsy also works on a review system, so you need great reviews to stand out. Making mistakes in the very beginning and disappointed customers can crush your business even before it takes off.

Do I have the necessary technical skill?

A basic knowledge of computers, as well as the understanding of your country’s laws about buying and selling is absolutely essential. It also helps if you are a fairly decent photographer.

You will need a seller account to set up shop on Etsy. You must be comfortable navigating around web pages. Etsy has a very easy user interface, so you can also figure things out as you go. Likewise, you must be aware of what taxes, fees and customs charges are applicable on your product. If you were to list a product’s price without all of these parameters in place, you would then lose profits when you have to pay buyer taxes from your own pocket.

Good pictures have visual appeal. They are a must-have for any ecommerce site, and more so for Etsy where every product is unique. You may choose to invest in some camera equipment and take a product photography class to get it right the first time around. Here are some of our favorite products from Etsy that make a great visual impact.


Image Source: Etsy

This picture brings out the simplicity of the product and highlights the gold very well. It is not easy to shoot metal under all lighting conditions.

Etsy Seller

Image Source: Etsy

There is something very charming about a rustic setting for wooden items. The personalization in the product also comes through very well.

Selling On Etsy

If you’ve chosen to sell specifically on Etsy, you already have a category in mind. Perhaps, you are also the manufacturer of the product you intend to sell. In this case, you don’t have to worry about raising purchase orders and having them fulfilled. However, you still need to think about how to handle inventory.

If you are instead a retailer of a specific category of goods, you also need to think about vendor management. For example, if you source local, handmade pottery from around the world and sell on Etsy, you must pay particular attention to timelines- how long it would take to procure the item, and then to ship it out to customers.

Managing Inventory On Etsy

Etsy does offer basic inventory tracking using SKUs for all products for no extra fee. However, we do recommend that you invest in a good inventory management product as you begin to see some sales happening. Such a product can help you when you choose to scale to other sales channels, and can also keep your inventory levels dynamically updated.

Most importantly, it can help you raise purchase orders and keep track of what products/ parts you have available in order to sell/ manufacture the relevant product. Since many of them also offer accounting and shipping integrations, you can manage your business effectively from one platform.

Gaining Visibility

Etsy SEO

At its very basic level, Etsy is a search engine. And for search engines, keywords matter, a lot. The right keywords help a search engine show the most relevant results to the user. Here’s how you can gain some visibility on Etsy using the right keywords for your product.

  • Study the competition. See what keywords they have used. Look for both short keywords and longer ones and make a list.
  • Use your own keyword research tools (and a host of them can be found with a simple Google search) to determine which keywords are trending or have maximum traction.
  • Use these keywords in your product title, description and even in the images. Don’t stuff the copy with keywords though. Let it look as natural as possible.

Keywords are just one way of gaining visibility. You need to put the word out there about your shop. Once or twice a week, post links from your shop across social networks. Share something interesting from the domain you are in. Let you audience know what you believe in. A lot of Etsy sellers also find traction on Pinterest, as both platforms work on visual appeal. Instagram is another excellent social network for showcasing products with relevant hashtags.

Comment on other relevant blogs. Don’t just advertise. Talk about other amazing products you have seen on Etsy. Talk about your process. Create a connect with new audience by writing guest posts. Visibility always takes conscious, consistent effort.

Making The Actual Sale

Sometimes, making a sale is a waiting game. If you seem unable to make that sale simply by following these steps and waiting it out, it may be time to ask for help. Ask a few trusted people why they think sales are not happening- it can be as simple as an inaccurate product description or an image of poor quality.

You also have the option of sponsoring your product listings for relevant keywords. Consider investing in some paid marketing until you make a sale and get a few reviews.

Since Etsy is such a huge marketplace, also consider differentiating yourself with a few niche keywords. The question you must answer is, “What would my buyers probably search for?” Include these keywords in the product description apart from the generic ones that you already have.

Finally, don’t forget the power of asking nicely. If you already have a pool of buyers through traditional means/ word-of-mouth, send out an emailer informing them of your presence on Etsy and offering a discount coupon for buying though that channel. You can also ask them to leave a review once they make a purchase.

Things To Keep In Mind

The choice to move your sales to Etsy must surely be driven by a desire to scale and build a successful retail business. In this context, here are few things you need to keep in mind:

  • Always prepare for tomorrow. You may be receiving enough orders for you to fulfil them as an individual, but once the product gains traction on Etsy, you will need a larger team and maybe even a manufacturing process.
  • The Etsy community is a thriving resource for selling in Etsy. Be an active member of the community and reach out to sellers you appreciate. Speak to them about sales strategy.
  • Always be nice to your customers. Since seller interactions are a thing on Etsy, it is perceived as a more personal marketplace. Be kind to everyone who makes an enquiry, even when they come across as demanding.
  • Consider becoming a valued voice in your domain. You can send out newsletters to your customers with information on recommended products or how to care for them. This helps you establish your brand voice in the future.

What are the biggest concern you have about selling on Etsy? Share with us in the comments below so we can help out.

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Armed with a degree and a pen, loves to tell stories. When not telling stories, she also works. Hard to decide which one she likes more.