4 Big Ways to Overcome New Etsy Shop Woes

2012 is the year of new beginnings. If you’re an artist or maker of crafty things, perhaps you’ve decided to start a new beginning on Etsy as a way to sell your work. Or, if you’re like many people, you already have an Etsy shop but haven’t done much with it. This is the year you want to amp your shop into high gear. Good for you!

I myself recently opened Hey Grey, a new Etsy shop on December 1st and then to add even more chaos (and fun!) to my schedule, I started Grey Labs on New Year’s Day, January 1st. But with my joy of creating and growing my Etsy shop, also comes some doubt and worry. It’s called new-Etsy-shop-syndrome and yes, its normal! No matter if you’re a brand new Etsian or are ready to take your current shop to the next level, there are ways to overcome new shop woes. With a little planning and loads of effort and commitment, you can overcome new shop woes and be on your way to Etsy success.

Here’s how:

Product Planning

Most people already have a product to sell or a product in mind when they open an Etsy shop. What they may not have; however, is a plan to grow that product line. Basically, a product plan helps you decide what products to create and when to offer them.

Perhaps you want to add your specialty line of wedding invitations to your Etsy shop. But you know that weddings are somewhat seasonal, with the busiest months being between late spring and fall. You’re not sure what type of invitations may be popular this year. You also know you’d like to add additional products to the store to help sales all year long, but you’re not sure what.  A product calendar can help you answer these questions.

Unfortunately, many new Etsy sellers don’t give product planning enough thought. But now you’re in the loop! Here’s how to get started on your own product planning:

  • Do Your Research:

A product calendar is simply that, a calendar. It helps you keep track of what product you’re going to offer throughout the year. Before you can fill it in; however, you need to know what you’re going to sell each month of the year.

In order to target your products to what people are looking for (trends), and to grow with the seasons, it’s a good idea to do a little research. This applies to nearly any type of product. If you can offer different shapes, sizes, colors and uses, you can likely mold your product to sell well all year long. If not, brainstorming products that compliment your shop and have a wider appeal, is key.

For instance, say you sell your own brand of Nordic knit socks for men and women. Socks are obviously a winter item, but you can add complimentary products to your shop to boost sales all year. Consider selling sock patterns or your own brand of wool yarn. Too boost fall and winter sock sales, knowing what colors are trendy for the season can help. Expanding your line to include baby booties or children’s socks in trendy colors can also help bolster consistent sales.

How do you find out what’s hot and what people are looking for?

Etsy’s Merchandising Desk: Etsy sends out routine articles on what’s hot and trending across all industries. This helps you know what type of items, colors, themes and sizes are sought after.

Etsy’s Holiday Reports: Similar to the merchandising articles, Etsy creates reports for the major holidays to help you know what shoppers are looking for.

Pantone Reports: Pantone is a leading informer of color trends for each year. This includes trends in fabric, papers and textiles. Keeping an eye on hot color trends can help you see what consumers are likely to be looking for.

Community Forums: The community forums on Etsy are full of valuable information. Both sellers and buyers post here, and often post about trends and items they are looking to buy. Over time, you’ll see certain topics repeat—such as buyers looking for certain items—that you may be able to cash in on.

  • Create a Product Calendar

Once you’ve decided on products to offer throughout the year, you’ll need to keep track of them. Grab any calendar with boxes large enough to write ideas and notes. Then, map out when you’re going to launch individual products.

If you sell wedding invitations, you may want to launch new spring and summer designs in December. Then, launch fall and winter designs in February. For the winter holidays, you may want to launch a line of custom gift tags and address labels, in October. Of course, you’ll want to tweak launch times to your own products; however, writing it all down in a calendar gives you an instant plan of what products to offer all year long.

  • Create a Listing Calendar:

A listing calendar is a separate calendar that reminds you when you’re actually going to list products in your store. This is super handy when planning for holiday selling. Typically, you’ll need to stock products about two months before major holidays, like Christmas. This ensures you have enough stock built up for the shopping season, and allows time for shipping.

Product Prep

Despite all your great planning, you can’t sell what you don’t have. Product preparation is your next biggest hurdle to prepare for active selling. It’s best to create as much product as you can before you actually open up your Etsy shop. This way, you can stock your virtual shelves and be ready to welcome shoppers in. If you’re already open for business, make sure to double up time to prepare products and supplies.

  • Product Production: Make sure you’ve created enough products to stock your store. Create enough of each color, size and variety. Look at your product planning and listing calendars to help you know what to prepare, and when.  Because actual product production is the biggest time involvement in your shop that you may have, stocking inventory ASAP will save you a lot of headache when sales start rolling in.
  • Gather Raw Materials: Part of making your goodies is having everything you need to create them. Be sure to keep on hand, all the raw materials you need to make your inventory. Have a list of all your suppliers handy, and find back-up suppliers just in case.
  • Gather Shipping Supplies: Believe it or not, shipping your products actually takes a lot of materials and time. You’ll need envelopes, boxes or containers to ship your products in. The United States Postal Service offers free shipping supplies, from boxes to envelopes. You may also purchase shipping supplies in bulk from online suppliers like Uline.com, to help save some cash.
  • Gather Product Packing Supplies: Once sales start coming in, you’ll be surprised how quickly packaging supplies can get low. Be sure to keep all the things you need to package your product, like clear baggies, tissue paper, ribbon or twine and product containers or bags.
  • Branding Materials: You’ll need a stash of business cards, business or product labels and any other collateral you’d like to include with each purchase. Many online printing companies like Moo.com and VistaPrint.com, make it affordable to purchase business materials in bulk.

Setting Up Right

Shoppers are picky. And they have a right to be. People want to know they are dealing with an honest-to-goodness business before they part with their money. With so many shops to choose from, a potential buyer only takes about 2 seconds to form an impression about a shop. If she doesn’t like the look or tone of your shop, she’s not going to spend any money with you. Thus, setting up your Etsy shop correctly from the get-go is a must. Here’s what you should work on:

  • Branding: Have a professional store logo that clearly reflects your business identity. From the colors that you use, to the fonts and wording and any images you use, your logo is the starting point. From there, everything else that displays your business image—photos, product descriptions, about us and policy pages—should all encompass your business brand.
  • Shipping Options: Decide if you’re going to ship only in the United States, or worldwide. Then create shipping profiles for your Etsy shop. This helps buyers know immediately if you’ll ship to their location and how much shipping costs.
  • Set Policies: Use the ‘shop policies’ section of your Etsy shop to outline what customers can expect. List common issues like refunds or exchanges, how custom orders are handled, customization issues and how to contact you if needed. Nothing turns buyers away faster than an empty policy page!
  • Write your Profile: The profile section in your Etsy shop is your place to let the world know more about you and your business. A great profile includes tidbits that allow others to make a personal connection to you—your background, your hobbies, your education or your family. Also include background on your Etsy business, including the how and why of it. Be sure to add in links to your social networking sites, like Facebook and Twitter, so people can connect with you off Etsy, too.
  • Take Great Photos: The photos you take of your goodies tell the story of each product. Etsy gives great information on taking excellent product pictures. Make pictures of every product as consistent as possible—its all part of your shop branding!
  • Use Your Words, Dear: Your keywords, that is. Every Etsyians must have a basic understanding of search-engine optimization (SEO).  Essentially, SEO is what allows shoppers to find your store via search engines like Google. Keywords are handy two or three word phrases that someone would commonly use to find an item like yours. You’ll need to implement great keywords in your shop title, your product titles and product descriptions. Etsy gives a great SEO talk to help you brush up on your keyword skills.

Marketing

Marketing your shop comes next, and it is one of those necessary things that just never ends. Once you’ve set up shop and stocked it with your wares, you’re ready to start spreading the word. Jump into marketing as soon as you’re ready to start selling; don’t wait. Etsy simply provides a platform for selling your things but it’s up to you to drive customers to your shop.

  • Use Social Media: Everyone has gone social these days, so jump on the bandwagon with your business and keep up! Social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and MySpace, allow you to gather a group of like-minded people who love your products, and help spread the word about your shop. Create a business fan page on Facebook and attach an Etsy Mini. This is a miniature version of your Etsy shop that people can peruse, find what they like and hop over to Etsy to buy!
  • Tell Everyone: Marketing becomes super-easy when you let other people spread the word about you. Simply, tell everyone you know about your Etsy business. Friends, family, associates, friend-of-a-friend, the elementary school secretary—they’re all great little marketers. Be sure to add a signature to your email program with a link to your Etsy shop. Whenever you send an email, your shop link will go along with it. Also, consider adding your shop URL to your own address labels, or making stationary with your shop information on it. Whatever you can do to tell everyone, go ahead and try it!
  • Go Grassroots: There are literally so many little things you can do to spread the word about your Etsy shop. Many are free to low cost and can help get your name to the masses. Consider things like a window sticker for your vehicle, wearing a T-shirt with your store name and URL, donating products to local charity events or participating in craft or vendor events.

The Art of Balance

Once you dive completely into making your Etsy shop a success, you can easily become consumed. If you also have a family, another full time job or outside commitments, you may find much woe in trying to juggle it all.

Fear not. This is a common problem. There may not be one single solution that makes running an Etsy shop along with everything else completely smooth, but it can get easier. Seasoned Etsyians often talk about the art of balance—of finding what works for you.

Balancing Family: Your spouse and children are your true loves, but your Etsy store may quickly catch up. While you feel completely devoted to your family, you may feel crazy motivated to work on your Etsy shop every waking minute. The solution: let your spouse and kids (if they are old enough) know how important your shop is to you. Then, work out a plan:

  • Create time each day solely dedicated to your Etsy shop. Have your spouse pull child care duty while you’re working.
  • Enlist your spouse or older children for help with household chores so you can focus on your shop.
  • Consider finding wonderful childcare a few hours a week, if needed, to allow you some uninterrupted work time.
  • Stop working! Know when to stop for the day so you can enjoy after school activities, extracurricular events, or just some needed family time.
  • Make daily lists of both work and family responsibilities to help you stay more organized.

Balancing Work: If you work a traditional 9-5 job in addition to running your Etsy store, you have to pay careful attention not to blend both at the same time. You may be tempted to sneak time to poke around your Etsy shop while at work, but your boss may have other ideas. Since there are only so many hours in a day (and you’re likely exhausted when you get home from work), you’ll need to be creative in managing your time:

  • Only list as many items as you can keep up with. If you have a demanding 9-5 job, yet you keep boosting your shop with new items, you may get bogged down quickly. Keep your shop manageable.
  • Make it clear in your store policies that you handle all convos and emails in the evening (after work), so customers know when to expect communication.
  • Prepackage what you can to make shipping faster and easier.
  • Set aside certain hours each day to work on your shop. Even if it’s an hour in the morning and an hour or two at night, you need to carve out time to pay consistent attention to your shop.
  • Make sacrifices when things get tight. Perhaps you have a crazy schedule at your day job, and your Etsy sales just jumped through the roof. Since you’ve made a commitment to your shop, you’ll need to manage your sales and follow-through. Make sacrifices where needed (no T.V. or going to coffee with friends) to help you keep up.

Remember, no matter how hard you work on your Etsy shop, it takes time to grow a successful business. Sales may trickle in at first and don’t expect a boon in constant sales. Don’t be disappointed if that doesn’t happen for weeks—sometimes months—after you open up shop. The key to success on Etsy is consistency. Always work on adding something new, marketing and promoting your goodies. Don’t let fear or woes get you down. Slow and steady wins this race, for certain!

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