Just over a year ago now I started up my own Etsy Store. I’ve always been a creative person, I’ve enjoyed knitting, sewing, painting, photography and a bunch of other stuff, for as long as I can remember. It’s always something I’ve enjoyed doing as a hobby and since having my blog I decided to share some bits I’d been drawing in this post about my Art Journal. A few people on twitter encouraged me to open up an Etsy Store to sell some prints of my paintings and one purchase of a printer later, it all began. It’s been a long year of discovery on how to run my own business so I thought I’d share some Tip and trick on starting your own Etsy store with you, in hopes of sharing some wisdom with you.
So one of the first things I should mention in this post is that I had a pretty good social media following already from my blog. I had a couple of thousand people on Twitter, a lot of whom I interacted with on a daily basis. I cannot deny that this base following had a big part to play in spreading the word about my shop or sharing pieces I was working on. If you’re thinking of starting a shop, I really encourage you to take some time before opening to start up your Instagram and Twitter channels. Make sure both of the names are matching so you’re easy to find, share your work, interact with people, join in art chats, join in hashtag events (such as right now #inktober is happening) and really try to get some interest in your work circulating.
There are things you will inevitably do wrong and will need to learn from and one of those things for me was packaging. Now, I completely understand you don’t want to spend a fortune buying a bunch of stuff to practice with in case you don’t make any sales but knowing how to package things effectively early on can help. Test out a few envelope types, make sure the item is securely packaged so doesn’t take damage and also make sure your package is the best shape and size it can be to keep postage costs down. As a small business owner there is a certain expectation to add that little extra personality, so adding some colour and extra pizazz goes a long way. This can also apply to all sorts of things, maybe you need to stock up on a few materials and need to buy more in bulk to keep costs down or need to find the best costing and quality paper you can. Just spend a little time preparing yourself before opening so that you’re not running around like a headless chicken. You want those first few customers to be as wowed as possible in hopes they spread the word and give you those key first reviews.
I’ve helped a couple of my friends start their own Etsy Store over the past year and a lot of them seem to struggle with marketing themselves. I understand this completely, you don’t want to be shouting about yourself constantly on twitter and ‘annoying’ people however how will anyone ever see your work if you don’t show it to the world? Maybe you only feel comfortable tweeting promotional stuff once or twice a day to begin with, but start and slowly increase that over time. Vary your hashtags, write something catchy in the description, keep things fun and lighthearted. I always find sharing progress of my paintings help people see something come to life, people like seeing a journey from a blank page to an awesome piece, so let them in on the process! Instagram stories is a great way to share stories now or you can even ‘live’ create there too. Don’t be afraid to show the world your awesome work, the more you share the easier you are to find and the more sales you can potentially make. It’s simple really. Also if you love someone else’s work share it! Connect with them, sharing their work helps get them seen and maybe they will share your work too. It’s a community, not competition, so spread some love to some other small biz’s too.
Everyone suffers from self doubt, it’s completely normal. I know quite a few Etsy Store owners now and they all have those moments where they think they’re rubbish when sales are slow. This will almost certainly happen to you during the first couple of months (unless you’re lucky enough to boom straight off the bat). The first few months will be slow, you’ll probably get a lot of interest on social media, maybe quite a few views of your store but no purchases, it’s normal. But sales will start trickling in and it’ll give you a boost like no other and hopefully drive you to keep pursuing this thing and building on it. Be patient, stay focused and work hard and it’ll come. Rome wasn’t built in a day.
So, I guess this is the part where I’m meant to say ‘if you have a certain ‘theme’ you’ll be easier to find’, which to some degree is correct, however that doesn’t mean you can’t make it. My shop started off with just a random collection of watercolour paintings and has turned more into a fandom shop for Disney and Harry Potter. I didn’t really intend for it to happen, but it did. You don’t really need to know what your direction is so to speak, just keep creating and see where the journey takes you.
I’m sure there is some high rate of businesses that fail in the first however months but my advice is to just keep going. It takes months to build up clients and all that jazz so don’t give up at the first hurdle. I’ve felt like quitting a few times when sales have been basically non-existent but a year later and almost 600 sales, I’m still here and going strong. My best advice is to just keep going, keep creating, keep sharing, keep being that awesome creative person you are who has the drive to do something with it. It will come if you’re determined, so stick with it and prove to yourself you can do this.
I hope some of these tips help those of you starting out with your own little store or for those thinking about starting one too. It’s been a long learning curve for me but I finally feel happy with what I’m doing. If you have any questions please feel free to ask me, I will help in any way I can! Or if you have any handy tips to add please share them in the comments below.