How to Start a Business on Etsy

Meet Etsy: an online marketplace where at home entrepreneurs and small retail stores can market

homemade items to a market searching for ways to support local, small businesses. The e-commerce

site allows artists and other creative types to sell handmade and vintage items, art supplies and other

unique items that can be hard to find elsewhere including jewelry, photography, graphic designs, bath

and beauty products and more. Think of it as an online craft fair. With over 30 million registered users

and 1 million sellers, the site is a potential gold mine for entrepreneurs looking to take their small, local

business to a larger market.


Do you have a handmade product or a vintage collection (consisting of items at least 20 years old) that

you think there is a market for? Are you ready to increase your selling potential or at least reach a new

audience? If so, Etsy may be the perfect location to get started. I’ll go through some of the basics and

simple steps to getting started below – use it as a guide to get started. Many find that Etsy is one of the

most approachable and effective ways of creating an online success story.


How to Sell Your First Item

By creating an Etsy account and setting up your own shop, you’ve already got a lot of the hard stuff out

of the way. This is an exciting opportunity to brand out to a new potential online market. However, many

Etsy shops never make a sale, and many say that nine out of ten of the shops fail. How on earth can you

compete with all the successful shops already on Etsy?


Approach your shop with a serious attitude; Etsy is not a casual way to make easy money, or a get rich

quick scheme. It’s a platform built up with passion and dedication. Making your first sale may be one of

the hardest parts of the battle, but keep going. If you’re serious about making it work, it will.

To get to that point, create clear descriptions of each item and provide photos. Use searchable titles and

provide detailed information relating to shipping times and what you are and are not capable of. When

the first sale happens, stick to those guidelines. Thank the buyer for making a purchase and send the

item in proper, protective packaging. Follow up after delivery to create a stronger customer relationship.


How Important is Your Store Name and Identity?

Many Etsy users would argue that a store name is the key to a successful Etsy store because it provides

an identity; the two are linked and cannot be viewed separately. To create a store name, consider the


• Originality – think of physical things that evoke an image that relates to what you sell.

• Use some style – adjectives can go a long way in linking a store and its items.

• Watch your spelling – if something is difficult to spell, it’ll be difficult to remember; think simple

and memorable.

• Look it up – if it’s already in use elsewhere, try something new; you want your name to be


• Avoid lawsuits – looking it up will help with this. Be sure the name you choose is not

trademarked in any way.

• Use a logo – consider creating a logo to create a visual representation of your store name to help

customers identify your store in the future.


Is Etsy for Everyone?

While options exist for anyone looking to sell products online, Etsy is not for everyone. Below are a few

groups that may want to look elsewhere to market their products.

• Those looking to sell pre-made products. Unless your item can be considered vintage by Etsy

standards, items must be hand-crafted or produced by you to be eligible to sell.

• Those looking for full-time employment. Etsy is best started as a side work opportunity. It can

grow to be more, but it should be considered an additional revenue source rather than a sole

source to start out.


Can It Be Used to Sell Goods Made in China?

Reselling is not permitted by Etsy, nor is the selling of factory or mass produced items. Because of this,

many goods made in China are prohibited on the network.

While vendor and fulfillment options are available through the site, stores must make this information

clear to all visitors from the front page.


Can an Etsy Shop Have a Whole Team Behind It?

This question depends entirely on the business model of the seller. There is no reason – based on Etsy’s

guidelines – an individual who employs others to produce hand-made items cannot sell on the site. Shops

can be single-person or team endeavors.


What Record-Keeping or Success-Tracking Tools are Available?

While Etsy offers basic records to sellers including items sold, dates and prices, a more accurate

bookkeeping model is recommended for accounting and tax purposes.

One of the best available is also free. Wave Apps is a free bookkeeping system that syncs with Etsy and

Paypal to provide records relating to sales, taxes and all other business necessities.


Can You Drive Traffic With External Advertising?

Absolutely. Your Esty shop is like your own store, just on a network. Use as many avenues as possible

to promote the products you offer for sale: social networks, link building, guest blogging and traditional

advertising options are all viable ways to bring new attention and buyers to your online shop. Check out

this guide to inbound marketing for further information about using ads to bring in traffic.


Is There Any Reason to Create Multiple Accounts?

In general, there is no reason to create multiple accounts on Etsy. Having a single, central location to

market your goods is the best way to increase positive feedback scores and to build a loyal following.

The one exception to this rule would be if you create products for two very different categories that

are in no way related and would attract separate demographics entirely. If you sell handcrafted Shaker

furniture and homemade baby afghan blankets, creating two stores may be ideal.


What Are the Fees and How Do They Compare to Other Business Models?

Individual items can be listed on Etsy for $.20 an item. From there, fees are based on sales, with Etsy

collecting 3.5% of every purchase. While this is higher than the average online store rate of 2.3-2.5%,

the convenience, searchability and built-in marketing associated with creating an Etsy shop is often

viewed as worthwhile.


Etsy offers a viable option for entrepreneurs looking to take their hobby to the next level by going public.

If you’re interested in setting up an online store, consider the topics above and find the marketplace that

is best suited for your product.

What is your Etsy success story? What is holding you back? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the

comments below. Happy selling!


Adrienne is a freelance writer and designer who has had several (now-defunct) Etsy shops over the years, selling

everything from knitted goods to hand bound books. She loves finding new ways to market on the web, and Etsy

businesses are no exception to her fascination! To see more of her work, follow @adrienneerin on Twitter or check

out her blog, Design Roast.

Contributing Author

About Contributing Author

Shy Entrepreneur is happy to entertain original work by authors that genuinely want to add to the conversation. That said this site will only be of value if the content is worth reading so link happy articles that regurgitate what one could find in a Google search will not be posted.