You’ve been told by friends and family that you should “totally sell your art”! Maybe you agree with them, but the timing hasn’t been right. Maybe you’d like to try, but you feel nervous. Maybe you don’t even know where to start. Well, I’ve done some digging, and it’s easier to get started than you may think. I talked with three successful Etsy shop owners, including two with backgrounds in art ed, to figure out what it takes to get started.
Name: Ann Schiller
Specialty: Custom invitations and stationery
Ann has always been creative and even made her own cards when she was growing up. Inspired by the creative women in her life, Ann studied K-12 Art Education and graphic design. After five years of teaching, Ann decided to shift gears and opened up event123 in 2009. By 2012, she had shipped to every state in the U.S. and many countries around the world.
Name: Sarah Welch
Shop: Wooden Spoon Editions
Specialty: Original, hand-printed linocuts
Sarah isn’t just AOE’s incredible customer happiness guru. She also runs her own Etsy shop filled with beautiful, original prints. Sarah has always enjoyed creating things with her hands and often made art for a sense of purpose and comfort. When she had created a small body of work, she decided to open Wooden Spoon Editions on Etsy in 2011.
Name: Katlyn Byrd
Shop: Scream & Snuggle Monster Company
Specialties: Sewn monsters, hand-painted cards, party decor
Katlyn has a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts in drawing and painting with an emphasis in K-12 Art Education. Katlyn started off by sewing monsters for family and friends. Their enthusiastic responses to her monsters made creating an Etsy shop the next natural step. In 2014, Scream & Snuggle Monster Company was born.
Getting started can feel overwhelming. However, taking things one step at a time will help make everything more manageable. Our experts suggest the following.
1. Choose a Name
Choosing the right name for your shop is crucial. One way to brainstorm is to start by writing down your goals for your shop and how you want people to experience it. For example, Ann was inspired by her mother’s and grandmother’s drive to turn gatherings into Events with a capital “E.” She also wanted her customers’ ordering process to be completed in 3 simple steps. Therefore, event123 makes perfect sense. Hone in on things that are important to you and go from there.
2. Research Your Competition
See what similar products are out there and figure out how you can stand out from the crowd. When crafting your store, stay true to your own unique voice and aesthetic.
3. Create Products and Take Photos
It’s essential that you have products ready to be photographed and sold. In the case of invitations and other paper goods, print samples to photograph so you can let buyers see what they will really look like.
4. Make a Business Plan
You will want to consider doing the following:
- Create a binder that will store printed orders and receipts.
- Keep a monthly spreadsheet to track order information such as:
- Customer name
- The purchase price of the item
- Materials costs
- Estimated sales tax
- How much it costs to ship
- Customer review
- Plan how frequently you want to list new products.
- Maintain a consistent stylistic approach, theme, method of photographing work, item description, and price point to make you shop more professional and shoppable.
5. Make a Schedule, and Stick to It
Devoting consistent time and energy to your shop are two ways to increase your chances of success. Know that setting up your shop takes much more time than maintaining it. Put in the hours up front, then make a schedule to keep yourself on track. Our experts spend between 10 and 35+ hours per week on their shops.
Keep in mind that you will have to do more than just make art. According to Sarah, she spends an hour or two each day, “…creating new work, photographing new items, listing and tweaking descriptions, packaging and shipping orders, changing shop announcements, researching trending themes, developing a newsletter, reviewing shop stats, replying to customer emails, and more.” There is a lot to manage, but having time set aside will help.
6. Promote Your Shop
Sarah told me, “In the beginning, I was stunned to realize how much of my time would be spent not creating new work. In order to help my business grow, I easily spent over 50% of my time working on ways to make my shop better and get the word out. Coming to this realization was difficult in the beginning, but it’s gotten easier – especially when you see that work pay off in sales!”
“In the beginning, I was stunned to realize how much of my time would be spent not creating new work. In order to help my business grow, I easily spent over 50% of my time working on ways to make my shop better and get the word out.”
Word-of-mouth is a great way to spread the word, but you’ll likely need to do more. Consider your own website, making sure you have an eye-catching logo. Inquire at local shops to see if they will stock some of your items and/or allow you to leave some business cards. In addition, don’t forget about creating a social media presence and attending craft shows.
6 Keys to Success
Besides having a solid plan, there are 6 other things you can do to ensure your shop is successful. Read on for some helpful tips from Katlyn, Sarah, and Ann.
- Be authentic. Include your story and what inspired you to create your work.
- Provide strong customer service and flexibility (within reason). Try to get back to customers within 24 hours. Sarah has also met local shoppers at agreed upon locations to negate shipping costs.
- Create quality products, and keep things fresh. Consistently create and add new work. It keeps your customers coming back!
- Take and post quality photographs. Simple backgrounds and natural daylight are best.
- Strive for fast production time and shipping. Katlyn keeps materials on hand so she can begin an order the day it’s received.
- Have a WOW factor. These could be things like handwritten thank you notes with purchases, discounts for returning customers, and thoughtful packaging. Little touches like this will spur customers to write reviews. More reviews equal more customers!
5 Insider Secrets
I asked our experts for some insider secrets to running a successful Etsy shop. Here’s what they had to say.
- Think like a customer. What are you looking for? How will you use it? How will you search for that item?
- When working, pick the top 3 things that need to get done that day and do those first.
- Set yourself apart. Create original, customized products, or provide a unique service.
- Consult the Etsy Seller Handbook.
- Moo is amazing for business cards. You can upload up to 100 images so each card can look different. I use the cards to hand out and also as product tags.
Hopefully, this has inspired you to pursue your career as a working artist and provided some behind-the-scenes tips for opening your own Etsy shop! Thank you to Sarah Welch, Katlyn Byrd, and Ann Schiller for sharing their Etsy expertise!
Do you own an Etsy shop? Mention it in the comments below!
What are your best Etsy tips and tricks?
Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.