Selling on Etsy

Selling on Etsy

Today on Marketplace Monday, I have an invited guest to talk about Etsy and selling online. I don’t have any experience on Etsy so I thought it would be good to ask my friend Vicki to talk to you, since she has a successful Etsy shop. Vicki dyes the most beautiful fabric. She sells mainly to quilters but if you use any kind of fabric in your artwork, you should check out Vicki’s shop as her fabric is wonderful and she will even make a custom piece just for you if you can’t find what you need.

Thank you, Ruth, for inviting me here today. As Ruth knows, I am an Etsy seller and I love the Etsy platform so when she asked me to talk a bit about selling on Etsy I jumped at the chance.

I am not a felter; I am a fabric dyer and quilter and I blog at Field Trips in Fiber. I started blogging about my quilting, dyeing and other pursuits in 2006 and that eventually led to selling my hand dyed fabric. I opened my Etsy shop in 2009. As with anything it was a slow start but the business has grown steadily. After 3 years of selling I can still say that choosing Etsy as my platform was one of the best decisions that I have made.

Today I thought I would talk about three things. First we will discuss why Etsy over other sites, second I’ll share some tips that apply no matter which platform you choose and finally, I’ll discuss some tips for creating great listings.

Why Etsy

Before choosing Etsy I had to choose to sell my fabric on a marketplace platform instead of a dedicated web site. That was an easy one for me. I do not have the time or money to manage a separate web site. I’d rather be creating than doing web maintenance. I consider the Etsy fees that I pay as a bargain for some fabulous IT support.

I chose Etsy simply because it is the biggest platform out there. There are other sites like Big Cartel and Art Fire and they are very good sites. But I want my fabric where the buyers are and Etsy gets more traffic than any of the competitors. Consider the following stats:

  • There are over 875,000 Etsy sellers. Yes, it’s a lot of competition but they are there because that’s where the buyers are. Most casual shoppers do not even know about any other sites for buying handmade and vintage items.
  • Over 2.9 million items are sold on Etsy each month.
  • Etsy is the most pinned site on Pinterest

If you want your items to be as visible as possible, Etsy is the platform. The challenge will be differentiating your shop and your products so that they do not get lost among the millions of other listings. Here are a few tips.

Etsy Tips

 The biggest challenge on Etsy is getting your listing seen.  Recently listed items will appear in the search first so you can list/relist often to keep your shop fresh. I try to have new items to list every week but when I don’t I will relist a few items just to keep something showing early on the search page. Selling hand dyed fabric gives me an advantage since there are not a great number of hand dyed fabric sellers. But if you are selling a popular item, like jewelry or art, then listing often is important. Etsy also feeds Google search so listing items frequently will move you up in Google search pages as well.

Also, make use of the search tags and listing name to help customers find your items.  This is what Etsy uses to match your item to a search query. Use all 13 allowed tags on each listing and make them relevant. Try to consider the search terms that potential customers would use to find your item. Include colors and your name for people searching by artist.

Etsy also provides a lot of help and guidance to sellers. The Etsy Online Labs is full of great information and you can always get a question answered in the forum. You can also purchase Search Ads reasonably that will guarantee you a certain amount of front page visibility.

But you cannot rely solely on customers finding you through Etsy. To have a successful business on Etsy you must drive a lot of the traffic yourself directly to Etsy.  About half of my customers are first-time Etsy customers. They have joined Etsy specifically to buy my fabric.

Think about who your customers are and where they might be. If you are selling art, your customers are not likely on other fiber art blogs. They might be hanging out on decorating blogs or homemaker blogs or even local interest blogs and sites. It’s important to find the customers first so you can tell them about your great products.

I get a lot of traffic from Google search and that has helped me identify other audiences for my fabric. I’ve sold fabric to a guy who wanted it for background for his aquarium, someone who wanted it for a speaker cover and to a lot of costume people and photographers. The costume and photography connection is one that I am exploring now for some advertising venues beyond quilters and fiber artists.

Here are a few things that I do to promote my hand dyed fabric. Maybe a few of them will give you some ideas for your own art.

  • My blog: I focus at least 2 posts each week on my hand dyed fabric. I usually have a “New in Shop” post mid-week and I have a post each Sunday highlighting possible quilt layouts using the current featured fabric palette. I also highlight blogger who use my fabric. Many of them are kind enough to post links to my shop and blog. Two in particular provide some of the best advertising possible and it’s free although I make sure to give them some free fabric from time to time.
  • Advertise on other blogs. This is a tricky one. It takes some work to find just the right sites. I have tried in vain to attract the “modern” quilters to hand dyed fabric. They simply are not ready to go there but I found a craft-centered blog where my advertising is finally paying off. In addition to advertising I periodically sponsor a giveaway on the blog to bring my products front and center.
  • Sponsor contests and giveaways on other web sites and blogs.  I sponsor quilt contests on and usually sponsor the semi-annual Blogger’s Quilt Festival. Some require payment and a donation but often you can find ones that only require you to provide a prize.
  • Advertise in publications. I advertise in several magazines. It’s not inexpensive but it does work. Make sure your ad is not too busy but is graphically strong enough to attract attention.
  • Offer to write guest posts on other blogs. People often need a break and will welcome an opportunity to have a guest post with a topic relevant to their readers.

Even with the great search features of Etsy, you will get most of your business from the traffic that you drive there yourself. You may not be able to invest in advertising from the beginning but there are a lot of free ways to get some exposure and traffic, especially on the web. Find the blogs and web sites that you think your customers are reading and start approaching them to provide content. Make sure that the content is relevant and beneficial. It’s usually best to not make it all about your product. Maybe it can be a free tutorial using your product or some care information for the type of art that you make. All it takes is some research, writing and a few emails.

You have traffic, now what?

OK, so now you have customers knocking at your virtual door you need to get them to buy something.

There is nothing more important than the photography. People can’t touch and hold your item in your virtual shop so you need to do it for them. Colors need to be accurate, they need views from all sides (when appropriate), and they may need to see the item in use or to see the scale of the item.

Check out other listings that you like and make note of the photography. What draws you in? Be sure that the image is clear and lighted properly. No one is going to buy an item that is not photographed well.

Etsy allows you up to 5 photographs on a listing. Use them! You could show alternate colorways, different sides or detail shots. If you are selling finished art, show it displayed as it would look in their home.

You also need to write a good description. Two things can help here. Read descriptions of other items for ideas of what to include and then get someone to proof read it for you. Preferably you can get someone who is the profile of your buyer to look at the description and photographs.  If they have questions or anything is confusing then you know that you have something to fix.

Etsy also has regular Shop Critiques and I find them very helpful even if my own shop isn’t selected for a critique.

This is just a starting point. Once you have your shop set up plan to devote a day each week to promotion and maintenance. This will give you time to research the myriad of sites on the web that offer Etsy selling advice and to research advertising and promotion opportunities.  It’s a business and it requires a lot of work but it will pay off in the end.

Thanks Vicki! That’s some great information. If you have any questions, for Vicki about Etsy, please leave them in the comments and we’ll get you the answers or answer them in a future post.

8 thoughts on “Selling on Etsy

  1. This was a very good and informative post. I took an Etsy class at a local guild and did get a lot of this information; but there was almost too much to contain all at once. Putting it all in one simple explanation is much better.

  2. Great information Vicki. I set up my Etsy shop, but have let it close down, primarily because I didn’t do all the things you talk about here. This inspires me to regroup and reopen!

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