Thursday, June 26, 2014

5 keys to a successful Etsy shop

It's taken awhile but slowly over time I have learned some important aspects to having a successful Etsy shop.  I am continually learning, but  wanted to share with those of you interested in starting a shop or newer to the Etsy community, what I have come to know along the way in hopes it helps you in your business endeavors.

#1 Have good, clean photographs with natural lighting--

Having good photographs of your product is the most important thing you can do for your Etsy shop.  People have no way of seeing your product in real life so this is your only opportunity to show them how good it looks.  I don't know about you, but if a shop doesn't have good photography or if I can't really see what I am buying, I won't.  I can't stress to you how important this is.

If you don't have a digital SLR just take the best photos you can with the best camera you have.  Even if it's an iphone.  You'd be amazed at what you can get from an iphone with just a little editing.  Always place products near a window or in a room with good natural light.  Never ever use a flash when photographing and never take photos after the sun goes down.  I use Pioneer Woman's Photoshop Action set to help me edit my photos-- I only ever use the boost and slight lighten actions.  If you have Photoshop Elements, she also has an elements version available.

Etsy's front page

Keeping it simple is a good rule of thumb.  Taking photos on a plain white background is completely acceptable and can even be a good thing.  One of the best ways to get recognized on Etsy is by making it to the front page in a treasury... look closely and you'll notice what ends up on the front page are products with good lighting, simple backgrounds and little to no props.  Also, if it's something wearable, a model is important too.

IF you do use props in your photos, make sure you are intentional about what you place in them.  They need to make sense and fit with the image or brand of your shop.  They can help you if you do them right but if you are nervous about this, just start out with a simple backdrop.

I love the Bees Knees Shoppe design (I also think her products are so adorable!).  Everything in her shop is cohesive from her colors, to her products to her logo and even the custom listing images.  Her shop makes me want to buy something from her because it looks put together.  She does a great job using props that help highlight her products without taking away from them.  

Mint Home has fabulous furniture pieces that stand on their own.  I like the simplicity of their listing photos with just a simple or white background.  This method really makes each piece pop because there are no competing elements.

Finally, don't fret if your photographs aren't coming out the way you'd like.  You will learn as your shop grows and as long as the photos are decent, you will get sales.  Take a Skillshare class to help you tighten up your photography skills if need be.

#2 You need a clear style--

Equally as important to good photos is having a vision and brand for your shop.  If you don't know what you're selling or how you want it to look to others, they won't know either. Is your shop whimsical? Vintage? Industrial? Preppy? A mix of things?  Whatever it is, make sure it's reflected in a nice logo and any other branding you have in your shop.

Pencil Shavings Studio has some of the best branding out there. You know exactly what they are about just by looking at their shop banner and a few listings.  Everything works together and speaks to their preppy/colorful/whimsical style.

If you sell multiple types of things in your shop, make sure they make sense together (like the shop above!).  You can sell clothes and photographs in one place but they should somehow be connected.  If you owned a brick and mortar shop, you would have a concept of who you were selling to and the look you wanted for your shop in it's decor, branding, style and feel, products etc.  Keep that in mind with your Etsy shop too.  Make sure your shop styling makes sense and that the items you are selling fit together.  I wouldn't sell vintage records and handmade soap in one shop but that's just me.

#3 Choose awesome tags and titles-- 

When choosing a title for your listing, make sure you are using search terms that people are looking for.  If you are posting a handmade bib for a boy-- "baby boy bib" would be a great starting point.  Don't make up a cute nickname for it like "Oliver's Favorite Bib" because no one is looking that up on Etsy, and search is the primary way people will find your items there.  It seems bland and boring but this is all about SEO and SEO brings buyers and buyers bring sales.

From there, use as many words in your title as you can to describe your piece.  For example you may continue with "Guitar Print Fabric, Baby Shower Gift, Gift Set" and therefore your whole title could be "Baby Boy Bib, Guitar Print Fabric, Blue and Green, Hipster Boy, Baby Shower Gift, Gift Set, New Baby Gift".  It's long but it works.

To know what people are searching for, simply start typing a term into the Etsy search bar.  For this example, you could type "bib" and see what other's are pairing with the word "bib" when they are searching.  Put those items in your titles with the most important words at the front of your titles.

Little Low Studio is a shop with good titles on their listings that are sure to be directing buyers to them (I also love their shop styling and photography too).

In addition to good titles, it is key to make sure all the important words in your title are also in your tags. This gives each word more weight when Etsy is searching how relevant your items are to the person looking. So for my imaginary listing I would tag: baby boy bib, baby boy, blue, baby shower, gift, handmade, etc.  I would keep going until I had used up all 13 tags.

Over time you can watch your shop stats and see what people are searching to find you and then edit your listing accordingly.  Try new words and phrases on a couple listings once in awhile, you never know what will be popular!

#4 Make sure to market outside of Etsy--

If you are doing your tags and titles well, Etsy search will drive a majority of your traffic. But Etsy alone is not enough to have a thriving shop.

Pinterest is an awesome way to get your product beyond Etsy's walls.  It's OK to pin your own designs.  I have some prints that friends have pinned to their Pinterest boards that have brought in a lot of hits and sales.  So far with my business, Pinterest has always brought in the most traffic aside from Etsy.

Facebook is fine but it used to be better.  I would continue to market on Facebook but I wouldn't put all my effort there.  In the last several months Facebook has limited who can see your shop's business page.  It can be very difficult to get your "likers" to see your stuff on a regular basis unless you are willing to pay to "boost" your post.  I've never done this but I have heard it's completely not worth it. Your personal page will have better luck reaching others but if you use it too much, you can get busted by Facebook.

Nonetheless, Facebook is still a great way to tell people about what you are doing. Try a variety of post types from links to status updates to photos-- some are more popular than others.  I often find that Facebook tends to bring in sales from friends and family that might not otherwise know what I was up to.

Instagram is a really fun way to show others what you are making, it's like a mini-blog and is quick and simple.  I find it's so much more rewarding than Facebook when trying reach my followers. It's a great way to interact with others, there's a lot of creative people and it's a super encouraging environment.  Others find me and the pictures I post by searching different hashtags (#etsy, #etsyshop, #handlettering) and then can head to my Etsy store because of the link I have in my profile. MAKE SURE to have good and styled photos on IG, similar to what I said about your Etsy shop photos, people here expect things to look nice. (Natural lighting!!!!)

I find IG is really good for networking and getting to know other designers/crafters/creatives out there too.  It's inspiring and is by far my favorite social media platform.

Follow me @SereneDesign ;)

Markets and Shows are super fun and can be a huge boost to your business.  Besides selling your product, you can make new customers, meet existing ones, make new friends with other small business owners and possibly get invited to other shows.

I'm new to shows myself but for now I would simply say, get yourself out there and be intentional.  Research the shows you sign up for and make sure your items fit in with the feel of the show. Also make sure the show is well marketed and the people running it seem to know what they are doing. There's nothing worse than doing a show and losing money in the end because no one shows up or the attenders are not searching for the types of items you are selling.  Sad day.

#5 Keep it fresh-- 

There's discrepancy out there as to whether or not you need to re-list items on Etsy or post new ones to get more hits to your shop.  It used to be that was entirely how you drove traffic to your shop-- with people re-listing their items multiple times a day. However, since each time you list something it's 20 cents, the shops with small budgets complained.  Now search is based on relevancy, not recency, so re-listing has little to no effect on people finding your items.  Which is another reason why good tags and titles are now so important.

All that to say, I do think it's important to keep adding things to your shop.  The more you have the more likely people will find you (there's simply more out there to be found) and it keeps your shop looking new and fresh.  People like to see that you have new products in the works and are continually creating.  Give them something new to buy-- you never know when you will land on a new design idea that propels your business forward.

I hope this helps and is informative for those newer to Etsy.  It sure makes me want to redesign my shop some, which I plan to do in the coming months. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to leave a comment or email me!

Good luck,


  1. This was great info! Love it, Rach. You have great wisdom to share here.

  2. This is a great post. Thanks for sharing your tips. I love all the shops you featured, too!

  3. These are very helpful tips! Opening up a store online can indeed be challenging. There are a lot of things to consider, like design, format, and most importantly, content. That’s why it’s always handy to have a guideline to follow, like what you have listed in this post. Particularly number 4, so that others will know their options on how they can market their products effectively. Thank you for sharing!

    Della Meyer @ Spark Local Marketing