Now, I'm not a "power seller". I don't make a living off of my Etsy shop. In fact, I only as of December started turning any profit whatsoever. I have, however, moved 210 items to date, and I'm pretty proud of that number. I have a great feedback rating. And I genuinely LIKE my shop and the items in it. I've learned a bunch of things along the way, some obvious and some not so obvious. The not so obvious ones I thought it might be worth sharing here, so here it goes:
1) Make what you like, but try to keep your ego out of it once your items are listed. Neckwarmers are one of my most popular items. I made my first one completely on a whim as a way to use up some extra buttons. I never expected them to take off the way they did, but once I saw that they were I started cranking out more. Your shop will tell you what buyers want by what moves or what gets hearted or viewed a lot, go with those indicators to the extent you can. Some items I've made and LOVED but haven't sold many of (pretty much my entire purse line for example!). Invest more of your time and supply budget into whats actually moving for you and your shop will be more successful. This might sound like an obvious one, but believe me, slowing down my purse production when I LOVE making those things was hard for me. In the end though, it freed up my time to make more neckwarmers and jewelry and since those items have been selling really well, that was the right move to make for my shop.
2) Always try to give your buyers what you'd want as a customer. For example, I'm a REALLY impatient buyer when it comes to waiting for packages, so I always try to ship within 24 hours. Judging from the feedback I've received, my buyers really do appreciate that.
3) Collect as much online real estate as you can. The more places online that link to your shop, the better!! Post on Craftster and list your shop URL in your footer. Donate to The Sampler!!! Not only will your samples end up in potential buyers' hands but photos of your samples and a link to your shop will be on their VERY cool and very popular website. Blog! Join Etsy street teams (I'm a member of CCCOE and EtsyVeg). Use Etsymini on your personal Myspace account or start a Myspace account for your shop. Post photos of your work on Flickr. Post ads on Craigslist. Take advantage of all the great free ways you can advertise your shop, I've never once paid for advertising.
4) Be unique. Lots of people on Etsy sell jewelry. And frankly, lots of us get our beads from the same sources. Thats why I incorporate antique or vintage elements into my pieces, to make them stand out. You're not so much selling your items on Etsy as you are selling your aesthetic and point of view . . . bring your own personal ideas and touches into your items and they will move for you.
5) Budgeting and bookkeeping are very important, but understand that most businesses will lose money at first and its OK if you do. Save every receipt and keep your books as accurately as you can (you don't need fancy computer programs for this, I do my books on Excel and could probably just as easily do them on graph paper with a calculator). You'll only ever be able to make smart, informed budget decisions if you've got a true and accurate record of what you've spent and what you've made. Keep those books and you'll see patterns start to emerge . . . where you could cut back on spending and where you should be putting more money . . . Its OK to let your budget develop organically, but make sure you're mindful of what you're spending. You can't ever turn that corner and run your shop profitably if you aren't watching your expenses (no matter how tempting it might be to screw your eyes shut and just cough up the cash at the craft store!)
6) List daily. There's no substitute. If you can't list daily, renew items. And change out your featured items often, you want to give the impression to buyers that your shop always has something new going on.
I hope that was helpful (and not harp-y!). Honestly, I'm lucky. I've done well and I'm lucky. But I have also worked hard and I've listened to my customers and my own instincts. The six items above have been really instrumental in my success and hopefully, if anyone reading this has a shop or is planning to open one, they can be helpful to them as well.
Listening: Division Day- "Tigers" (Show tomorrow night at Spaceland! YEA!!!