How to Start an Etsy Shop

Author: Kristen Lund Date: May 01, 2014

What to know before launching your business on the “quirky aunt of e-commerce.”

Four years ago, Jess Decelle of Austin, Texas, started an Etsy shop as a creative outlet from the stress of graduate school. Her hobby became so successful that Fox & Brie, a line of handmade bow ties, neckties and other men’s accessories, is now her full-time job.

Decelle isn’t the only entrepreneur turning to Etsy, once dubbed “the quirky aunt of e-commerce,” as a platform on which to launch a small business. In 2013, a million sellers worldwide sold $1.35 billion worth of goods—the biggest year ever for the site, according to CEO Chad Dickerson.

Nearly three quarters of Etsy sellers consider their shop a business. Set your own shop up for success by following these tips from Decelle.

Hone your brand. 

Most prospective Etsy sellers don’t have a master’s degree in advertising, as Decelle does, but they can still develop an engaging, cohesive brand. “Choose fonts and colors that evoke the aesthetic you want people to see in your brand,” she says.

Decelle recommends the Etsy blog for brand-building advice, and if you lack the graphic design chops to bring your brand to life, thousands of Etsy sellers provide custom design services (just search “Etsy design” on the site).

Take great photos. 

On Etsy, a site that heavily features photography, “you can have a beautiful product,” Decelle says, “but you have to be able to clearly show the item to land the sale.” As a startup, your business may not have the budget for high-tech camera equipment—and that’s OK. You can produce clearly focused, attractive photography with a simple point-and-shoot camera. Photograph your items in the morning or evening, when natural light is at its most flattering, or build a do-it-yourself light box, as Decelle did, using instructions found online.

Join a team. 

When Decelle’s hobby became a full-time job, she joined Etsy’s teams program, where sellers share their advice and experience about running a business. “You get a lot more out of it by connecting with other sellers,” she says, from product display tips to help finding materials.

Be yourself. 

Since Etsy’s primary focus is handmade goods, the person behind the product becomes part of the brand. On your shop’s “About” page and in your item descriptions, avoid advertising buzzwords, and instead share personal stories about where you find inspiration and why you’re passionate about your products. “The stories behind these items,” Decelle says, “are what keep people buying them.”

READ NEXT: How 4 Small Businesses Protected their Intellectual Property from Etsy Copycats

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