With more than one million active shops on Etsy, plenty of people are making a living selling handmade goods, vintage items, and craft supplies—Etsy brought in at total of $1 billion in sales in 2013. Statistics like that make it no small wonder why so many people are considering an Etsy shop as a viable business venture.
For Stephanie Maslow, it wasn’t the potential to strike it rich on Etsy, but the potential to introduce her jewelry to more customers that drew her in.
“When I was at a local craft fair customers were asking if I was selling on Etsy,” she recalls. “I remember thinking, ‘Et-see? What kind of name is that?’ When I finally Googled it I fell in love with all the beautiful, handmade work being sold there and decided to try it out.”
She opened her online shop, Metalicious, in 2007. Seven years later, Maslow has sold more 2,000 handcrafted pieces of jewelry made from recycled metals.
While she’s happy with her success, she cautions the Etsy dreamers out there. It’s not as easy as making a crafty item, posting a picture, and getting paid.
“When I first started on Etsy it was awful,” she says. “You have to start from scratch and learn everything. You have to put the time in to learn, and it’s hard work.”
From knowing your target market to search engine optimization, making money on Etsy requires some expertise, Maslow says. But for those who are serious about selling work on Etsy, this experienced metalsmith offers these four tips:
Take amazing photos
Consumers are visual by nature, so when they visit your site, give them some eye candy. Maslow says every picture of your product should be “drool-worthy.”
“It took me a long time to move away from a plain, white background because that’s what I thought was popular,” Maslow says. “But my work wasn’t selling even though people ‘loved it in person.’ Once I moved away from that white background, my own style came through and my jewelry could finally stand out.”
Be loyal to one social media platform
Social media is a great, free way to advertise your products. However, the number of social media platforms are forever growing, so rather than pin and tweet yourself to death, Maslow suggests finding one platform that works for you, committing to it, and telling your customers that you use it.
“Use that platform to really communicate with your customers. Show them what you’re working on and respond to every comment,” she says. “People will become invested in your process and your product and become your best customers, because they get to know you. A real person. Making your living doing what you love.”
Set specific goals
If your business plan is to “make money” on Etsy, you probably won’t make it far. Your business plan doesn’t need to be a huge time investment, but writing one should force you to think about every aspect of your business and your success. To start, you’ll want to set financial goals for yourself, Maslow says, and then track them. Set a weekly goal and check your sales frequently. If you’re not hitting your goal, make a plan to boost sales.
Take suggestions from your customers seriously
Maslow urges Etsy sellers to make what they love, but at the same time, to be open to suggestions from customers.
“Some of my best sellers have been from collaborations with my customers,” Maslow says. “Don’t blind yourself with your own pride. Just because you love something doesn’t mean someone else will pay for it. Nothing is ever perfect.”
The takeaway message, Maslow says, is to invest time and effort into your virtual storefront and be willing to work through trial and error periods to become successful.