Behind the Scenes of Opening an Etsy Shop

If you create artwork on your iPad and have been looking for a way to sell your designs on products, you may already know that Etsy is a great option that makes selling easy and gives you higher profit percentage than print-on-demand.  You can even connect your Etsy shop to companies like Printful that will ship directly to your customers, so all you have to do is create the artwork and manage your listings.

I’ve been selling my work on print-on-demand sites for years, and won’t stop doing it any time soon BUT let’s be honest — the small percentage you make on each sale means that the only way to succeed on print-on-demand shops is to have a high volume (I mean thousands) of designs.

I think the process of creating thousands of designs is exactly what a beginner needs to find their creative style, but at some point you will probably be ready to dive into creating more of a boutique shop feel for your work — Enter Etsy.

On Etsy you can succeed with a smaller amount of designs, but of course they need to be:

  • high quality
  • focused in theme and content
  • aligned with your brand
  • beautifully photographed

Print-on-demand is truly “set it and forget it” whereas Etsy takes more work and planning, but in the end you can make a lot more profit and make more meaningful connections with buyers and potential art licensors through an Etsy shop.

My First Etsy Shop

This isn’t my first rodeo when it comes to opening an Etsy Shop.  I opened my first shop in 2010 and ran it for a few years before I realized I did not want to ship items myself.  I want to spend my days drawing, writing, and making classes, not putting tape on boxes and waiting in line at the post office!  So this time around, I am using a white labeling printer (Printful) who will create and ship my orders right after a customer checks out in my Etsy shop.

If you are considering using a white labeling service, the first step is to order some test products, so go grab some artwork, upload it to one of the sites, and order your art on some products to get a feel for how it works.  Here are a few that I’ve tried that are great options in my opinion:

  • Printful
  • Printify
  • Printed Mint
  • Contrado
You can also use these sites to create bulk orders shipped to you, then you can ship orders individually as customers place them.  This is a much more cost effective way to do it because you can take advantage of the bulk ordering prices that can give you big discounts on your orders!

How do you open an Etsy shop?

The onboarding process is so easy, I literally believe an 8 year-old could do it.  So if you are fearing the intial set-up, hear this: they will literally walk you through each and every step of the process, so you don’t have to worry about whether or not you’ll be able to “figure it out”.  That being said, there are a few things you may want to think about before starting the process:

  • what will your shop title be?
  • which sellers do you idolize and why? (if you aren’t sure, it’s time to start scanning Etsy and taking notes!)
  • what products would you like to sell?
  • what is your niche?

How do you get your work found in search?

This is one of the #1 concerns I hear from potential Etsy sellers: “how will anyone find my work when there are so many other artists out there?”.

I think there are a few things we need to tackle to get found in search, some of them mindset based and others are keyword based:

  • The #1 thing you can do to be found in search is to target your audience directly — that means creating artwork that is specific to someone you have in mind, not making artwork that is “for everyone”.  When you get your artwork onto the shelves of Target, you can make artwork “for everyone”, until then we have to work to get found in a sea of sameness.  Here is an example:  Let’s say you create artwork that is all about medicine and health.  You would market to doctors, nurses, and other health professionals by drawings things like bones, circulatory systems, lettering with jokes that only medical workers would understand, etc.  When a doctor goes to Etsy to find artwork for her office, you can bet she will find your shop and fall in love with the work you made that feels like it’s JUST for her.
  • New items automatically go toward the top of search so Etsy can find out if they have “selling potential”, so new sellers don’t get pushed to the bottom of search.  As long as you are creating high quality products and use accurate keywords and tags, you can keep up your place in search.
  • SEO is everywhere!  That means every single thing on your Etsy listing matters — the title, the description, the tags, the category.  So of course, we don’t want to skip any of those sections AND we want to be sure they all contain the keywords that a real person would enter into search to find our artwork.  Let’s keep going with the medical themed shop above:  If I created an art print of the bones in a hand, I might make a list of 10 things a doctor would type in search to find something like that possibly including: bone chart, bones in the hand, doctor office art, medical art, medicine art, bone art, hand drawn bones, etc.
  • Pinterest is another great way to get your work found on the web.  Pinterest is often called “social media”, but I can tell you from someone who has run a Pinterest account for over 5 years, it is NOT social.  It is a search engine that gets your work into the world so people can find it on Pinterest and in Google.  Have you ever noticed that when you Google something, then go to Images, a lot of Pinterest pages come up.  Why?  Pinterest works hard to get high up in Google search, so being on Pinterest will help you get your work out into the world quickly!

How important is photography?

Good photographs are literally your brand and storefront on Etsy, so don’t skimp on this part of the process.  Even if you are using a print-on-demand service to fulfill your orders, it’s important to show your customers the real products so they don’t get a “factory feel” when they scan your posts.  Adding in something personal like your hand holding the object would make your photos even more engaging and “clickable”.

More Etsy Tips Are Coming!

I have some big Etsy tutorials and workbooks coming down the pipeline, so be sure you’re on my mailing list to be notified when something new comes out!

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