Etsy is a great online venue for selling handmade and vintage items. Any craft you enjoy doing, whether it is knitting, sewing, painting, weaving, woodcarving, or whatever, can be used to make and sell beautiful, handcrafted items to people all over the world. Some people have even turned their part time hobby into full time self employment! If you're considering setting up an Etsy shop, here are some important things to consider before opening your doors.
If you're selling any kind of physical item, you will have to arrange for the packages to be shipped from you to the customer. This has two steps: packaging and shipping. First, you will need to package the items so that they are able to travel safely through the mail. While in transit, packages may be tossed around, stacked on top of each other, or crammed into the back of a truck or plane. It's vital to package items, especially breakable ones, so that they arrive unharmed. Sturdy boxes are always a good choice. Bubble wrap can be used to wrap delicate items so that they have a cushion to protect them, and packing peanuts keep items from jostling around in the box. Paper supplies and artwork can be sent in stiff cardboard mailers to prevent bending. Be sure to have appropriate shipping supplies ready for whatever type of item you'll be selling.
The second step is postage and labeling. One option is to do this the old fashioned way, by writing the address and taking it to the post office to buy postage. A more modern and efficient way is to print your own postage at home. Labels can be purchased and printed directly from the internet, bypassing the need to hop in the car and take a trip to the post office. A popular method is using a thermal printer, which is a special printer made just for sticky address labels. These devices speed up the packaging process, because all you have to do is print a label and stick it on, and the heat printing means you never have to buy ink!
Photography is a vital aspect of online selling. In order for your products to sell well, they need to have attractive, appealing photos that entice the buyer to click and get a closer look. Even beautiful products have a low chance of selling if the photos don't display them to their full potential. Obviously a camera of some sort is a must. Though an expensive professional camera is nice, it isn't required; many sellers have beautiful photos using just a point and click digital camera, or even a smartphone camera. The key is to learn the functions of your camera so that you can use it well, so spend a few minutes studying the instruction manual! It's also useful to use photo editing software to touch up the photos. There are tutorials and tips online to help you learn to take great product photos.
In addition to a camera, you need to decide on an area to take the photos. Depending on your items, this could be a shelf by a window, a table outdoors on the porch, the surface of a wooden deck, or any other place. The best spots have a neutral, pleasant background, and plenty of light. You may also need props; for example, a hat seller may need a mannequin head, or a food seller may need attractive plates or napkins. Consider what would best work for your products, and arrange a photography area with everything that you need.
Nobody likes paying taxes, but everyone has to deal with them anyway! Before going into business, make sure you have all of the appropriate legal documentation you need. There are multiple options for business type, including Sole Proprietor, LLC, or corporation, and each has its own rules and regulations. These options can be researched to figure out which is the right one for you.
Check into the rules for your state as well. Each state may have local laws that apply to online businesses, like business licenses. A common rule is sales tax, which must be collected and paid by the seller in some states. Be prepared to keep records of your sales and expenses, so you'll have them ready at tax time.
Even a small business needs a business plan. While there is some luck involved in online selling, most success comes from careful planning and execution. Think about how you will operate your business. Do you know how much supplies will cost, and where you'll get them? How will you market your shop? Who are your target customers, and how will you reach them? How many hours will you have to work to reach your target sales goals? How will you deal with returns or lost packages?
It's best to have at least a loose plan for these issues before you open your business. True, some things can only be learned through experience, but preparation is never wasted.
Opening an Etsy shop is a big undertaking, but it can be very fun and rewarding. Being prepared for the day to day functions of running a store will allow you to put more time into making your items, improving your sales and finding the success you want!