Whether you’re thinking about moving your shop to Etsy or thinking about starting a whole new side business altogether, I thought I’d write a blog post detailing how to get started, Etsy’s pros and cons, and how to get the most out of this specific platform.
Pros and Cons
For starters: why Etsy? Etsy is a household name, especially if what you’re selling is handmade, beautifully crafted, cute, vintage, or an otherwise unique item. Yes, there’s eBay, Poshmark, your own website, Instagram, etc. but when you’re first getting started, in my opinion, Etsy is your best bet. eBay is, no offense, an old person thing. Etsy is very much, “Let me personalize this sustainable, recycled product for your child, Pond Juniper!” Yes, that’s right, the target buyer on Etsy probably spends more money on Etsy per annum than vaccinations for their children. While this is obviously concerning on a global wellbeing standpoint, it’s helpful to know who is getting on Etsy just to BROWSE. I go to Etsy when I am looking for something specific or need to compare items I’m about to add to my shop. But I am not out there scrolling Etsy like it’s Pinterest. However, the people naming their children Goldenrod “Goldie” Eleanor ARE. So if that is who is most likely going to buy your products, Etsy is the place to be. I’d also prefer Etsy over your own website or selling directly on Facebook or Instagram for one big reason. My shop is certainly not big enough for people to find my items by going to a website. If you googled “vintage 80s pink blazer,” I doubt my own personal website would even show up on the first 20 pages of Google. But, Google shopping takes you straight to eBay or Etsy listings. The option to go to Etsy first and use keywords and show up that way gives my shop a lot more visibility than it would receive otherwise. If you already have a faithful following or large Instagram community, maybe your own website would be sufficient, but as a primarily vintage reseller versus the few handmade items I have made, I doubt I’d sell anything if I got rid of Etsy.
I also like the ease of shipping via Etsy.com. When I am away from the U.S., my mom runs my shop for me–she takes measurements and she ships items. Via Etsy, you can purchase USPS shipping labels for all of your packages. The price of shipping is taken straight out of your seller payment account.
Now, some may bring up the cons of selling on Etsy to dissuade you from its use. I bring them up so you know about them, not to turn you away. Etsy does have seller fees. For every item you publish on your shop you are charged $0.20. If that item does not sell in four months, you can have it automatically renewed for $0.20 or remove the item from your shop. I rarely remove items from my shop unless I just have no faith it will sell, my sad pom pom earrings being the primary example. Therefore, I usually opt for automatic renewal and discount the item until it sells (if you put the item on sale for 30 days, it will alert any buyer who has favorited the item, if you just alter the price, they are not alerted to the price decrease). There is also a fee for when you sell an item. There is a 5% transaction fee on the sale price (including the shipping price you set). If you accept payments through Etsy Payments, there is another 3% + $0.25 payment processing fee when an item is sold. So, for example, if a buyer gives you $15, Etsy is going to take less than $1 in fees. For me, this is no biggie.
The most recent big bummer about Etsy was their site wide switch to favoring listings that offer Free Shipping. Essentially, they changed the search function to show items with Free Shipping first, burying your items deep down the rabbit hole. They announced the change via My Shop Manager and created a tool that automatically switches all your item to Free Shipping while allowing you to up the prices to include shipping price in the item’s sale price. This is what I’ve done, so now my items come off as more expensive than before, but they have “Free Shipping” and actually see the light of day when searched.
I started my Etsy, Rachel Layne Shops, in 2014 for the sole purpose of listing one item. While thrift shopping in Bowling Green, I found the most gorgeous, pristine condition, vintage Dr. Marten’s I’ve ever seen to this day. They were $2 and…not my size. I bought them anyway because there’s no way I could pass up a steal like that. I listed and sold them for $50, making a $48 profit (for those who can’t do math). From then on, I was hooked. I have been thrifting, estate sale-ing, yard sale-ing, and flea marketing since I could walk. To this day, it is absolutely one of my favorite hobbies and things to do with my grandparents and cousins. In fact, I’ve written an entire blog post with my thrifting tips called Thrifting: First Hand Tips for Your Second Hand Finds (pretty clever title if you ask me). At the time, I wasn’t much of a maker myself (and still am not given how poorly my pom pom earrings entered the market), so I decided to focus on vintage items (Etsy, at that time, only allowed handmade or vintage items to be sold on the platform–but vintage is considered anything before 2000…so, take that how you will).
When I first started, I already was dressing like a teenager from the 1960s, so I basically just began selling my own clothes–things I was already wearing and got bored of or grew out of. Once I realized I could make money off of the cheap clothing I was buying, that’s when I started thrifting for things I could resell. And because I no longer have such an eccentric style, I barely even wear the clothes I shop for! Most of my thrifting these days is to find items to sell. Girls gotta hustle (BTW, never let anyone give YOU SHIT for reselling vintage. People like to say I am the reason why prices at Goodwill are going up and as someone who has been shopping at Goodwill for two decades, with less than half of that time being a reseller, I am not hurting anyone. If y’all gotta get mad at someone get mad at the store for getting all this shit for free and then selling it, WTF did I do?? Sorry…rant over.)
Later on, I started selling handmade items like headpieces and earrings but the success was unmatched compared to reselling vintage clothing, accessories, cameras, and other knick knacks.
Listing items is made pretty easy with Your Shop Manager. First, wash your items, mend them, or iron them. Then have a fun photoshoot! I’ve found items are more likely to be clicked on if they are modeled. When I do a shoot, I try to piece multiple items in one outfit which cuts down on changing times. For example, in this picture, this was the listing for the purse but every item was for sale. Then for the actual listing, just make sure the focus is on the purse/other accessory being featured.
Generally speaking, I or my sister do all of the shoots and the models are my friends and family. Last year, my friend Whitney offered to do a shoot in exchange for some experience photographing products. This was really fun and I loved having her unique style and perspective added to the products and way they were styled. (BTW, Whitney is a great photographer, person, and friend and I highly suggest you follow her on Instagram @whitneygray_photography!) Here are some photos from that shoot:
Styling and shooting your items in a way that makes them look very cool and clearly wearable is a great way to make yourself stand out from the crowded results page. Plus, I use these photos on my shop Instagram and Facebook to boost views!
After your photos are ready freddy, you can begin the process of posting them. Adding a new listing looks like this:
Pretty simple and self-explanatory! In the description, I try to write something witty and fun and also describe the item–what it’s made of, how it fits, what I wear it with, and then of course I try to provide the basic measurements. The tags are like hashtags on Instagram and you only get 13 of them so make the most of it! Also, as a I briefly mentioned before, I like to search the item I am selling before listing to get ideas for the description, title, tags, and price range.
After listing, I pin the item from Etsy onto Pinterest and share it on social media. From there, I pretty much let the search algorithms sell my items. I always try to be very responsive to inquiries and answer as truthfully as possible.
Once I sell an item, I try to ship it within 1-3 days and always provide a tracking number. I try to use recycled shipping materials and include a business card with my information and a request to leave a 5 Star Review (which is very important to me, I love receiving them!).
Etsy can be a great seller’s tool. You just need to know how to use and market your items. Follow trends, other sellers on Instagram, or favorite their shops on Etsy. Make sure to share your items on various platforms to get more views. There are buyers out there for almost every item imaginable, you just have to find a way to get your item to their search results page! Etsy also has an in-house manual to selling that is more comprehensive than mine, but as with everything on my blog, this was based on personal experience and preferences! If you have any more questions about selling on Etsy, feel free to reach out either by commenting or connecting with me on social media. I am more than happy to promote the free market ;)!