Very, very recently I opened up an Etsy shop to sell jewelry and plushies. My reason for doing such is simple: I had already made jewelry a few years back to sell at an Artist Alley, had lots of backstock left, and finally felt it was time to sell the rest off. This is my first time selling online, so I would not claim to be an expert on it, nor am I an expert on Etsy. However, the things I wish to talk about today do not require expert knowledge. Rather, they are just things that, while researching starting an Etsy shop, were not mentioned or were poorly explained.
The goal of this post is not to instruct you on taking good product photos, how to tag your product to get it found, or anything of that nature. There are already hundreds of other posts online about those aspects by people who would know better than I. I, instead, wish to tell you of three aspects to starting your shop. These are aspects that are manageable, but caught me by surprise when I started. I hope that this article can help someone else be better prepared for starting their shop.
- Be ready to list items immediately when starting your shop.
I generally like to take the time to prepare and plan before fully investing myself in something. For a site like Etsy, this would include starting a shop without listing items. This would be done in effort to achieve two things. On the one hand, I would get a chance to familiarize myself with the interface and not run around like a chicken with its head cut off when something first sells. On the other hand, I could also better assess what customization options there are for the shop so I could quickly make the store look decent.
Suffice it to say, one of the shop creation screens flat out wants you to start by listing some items. I certainly understand Etsy’s reasoning: they want to discourage people opening up empty shops that take up shop names. However, as I was not expecting this, I had to hold off on my shop creation for a week, because I was just simply unprepared to list items at that exact moment.
So, going in, my suggestion is to set several hours aside when starting a shop. Have your product pictures prepared and, just in general, be prepared to list at least one item.
- If you are a US seller, Etsy can auto calculate the shipping.
Another aspect of my personality is I always think about what to charge. Do I need to fold in shipping costs into the product price? How much should I calculate for packaging? While shipping is readily mentioned in a lot of articles, from my experience at least, a lot of the information is different from article to article. Etsy itself also has articles about things like Shipping Profiles, but I feel it does a poor job tying everything together. Inevitably, I started opening my shop with little idea about what was going on for shipping and decided I’d have to cross that bridge when I got there.
To my surprise and relief, you can just have Etsy auto calculate the shipping if you are a US seller. That being the case, you do not need to worry about folding shipping costs into the product price. This also makes it easier to sell internationally. Now, of course, Etsy does offer the ability to offer free shipping, and you CAN fold in the shipping cost into the product price, but the point is it’s not necessary. Etsy even lets you set a handling fee, so you can absorb your packaging costs into there.
Keep in mind for calculated shipping to work, you do need to be able to measure your package, as well as weigh it. However, if you can get those measurements, shipping aspects of product planning become a breeze and nothing to get in a tizzy over.
- If you are going to sell to people in Europe, be aware EU consumer protection laws force you have to offer returns and to reveal your identity.
Now first off, I am no expert on the particular laws involved, so the specific nuances to them are out of my league. However, upon creating my shop, I did read up on what Etsy provided about them, and was disappointed I had seen a severe lack of mention of them in my previous research.
To put it bluntly, regardless of where you’re selling from, consumers in Europe are given certain protections that you still have to adhere to. One such protection is you must accept returns (14 day minimum from them receiving the item). Now, before you panic, Etsy policies let you state the return shipping cost is on the consumer, so you don’t need to worry about that. In retrospect, it’s not a huge deal since it doesn’t really cost you anything to offer returns, and returns will keep your customer base happy.
The issue that was more concerning for me was the second part: you are required to identify yourself with name and address so that the consumer knows who you are. As someone who values a certain level of anonymity, this definitely made me nervous. Though Etsy does state that anyone outside Europe cannot see that information, I can understand why that would still deter some people. Now for me, I bit the bullet and decided international selling was more important than anonymity. However, it is something to keep in mind if you wanted to maintain a more shadow presence while selling internationally.
Of course, you circumvent this by not selling to Europe, but that is of course potentially lost sales. In the end, this is one you’re gonna have to decide for yourself about what you value more. Keep in mind there are more EU consumer protection laws than what I have mentioned, but these are the two I felt affected me on a personal level.
That’s about all I have to say on the matter. I’m sure there are articles that do mention these things somewhere out there and I probably just missed them. Nevertheless, I also think the articles discussing tags and photos are more abundant, so it can’t hurt the world to have another article that talks about these lesser mentioned aspects of creating a shop. I hope this has left at least someone better prepared to start, perhaps someone like myself who does worry about these sorts of detailed aspects to selling. I also hope I haven’t deterred anyone from selling on Etsy either, because the process of setting up a shop is easier than it seems.
With that, I wish all future potential sellers good luck, and don’t sweat the small stuff.
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Image 1: Screenshot of part of Etsy’s new listing screen.
Image 2: Screenshot of part of Etsy’s Shipping Profiles setup.