Do you like making your own things or making unique gifts for others?
Are you stuck at an unfulfilling day job, just itching to use your creative side as your source of income?
Lastly, have you thought about opening up an Etsy shop but don’t know where to begin?
I opened my Etsy shop years ago, basically on a whim, because I had the time (this was pre-child). I made a cute little elephant after following a sewing pattern I found on Pinterest. Once I shared it on Facebook, people were suggesting I open an Etsy shop. I definitely had doubt. “Who would buy this? It’s so far from perfect. Not sure this is worth my time.” But, I took the plunge anyway, and opened shop. It’s a distant memory now, but I’m sure I made a few tweaks to the elephant pattern, came up with another item to sell, took some photos, and opened my Etsy.
Of course, I did some of the tedious tasks first. I was actually living in Germany through the U.S military, so I had a few hoops to jump through to register my ‘at home business’ through post. Came up with a name and put together a logo and I had to use German shipping, so I figured that out. But that’s about it.
And now I know there is so much more that needs to be considered before opening an Etsy shop if you want to have success from the beginning. There’s actually so much to prepare ahead of time, I’m developing an e-course that will help people like you set up an Etsy shop correctly from the beginning. It’s going to be a very in-depth, step by step guide with info that even Etsy glosses over. Not only is it important to figure out what to sell (I’ll go into detail later), but if you are serious about your Etsy shop being a business you need to consider things like taxes and registration. (I know it’s scary, that’s what the e-course is for!) If you’re interested in finding out more about this course click here to sign up for updates on the release.
So first things first, you need to figure out what you’re selling on Etsy. I’m going to tell you that this step could be a long process but I do think it’s the most important and should be heavily considered first, even before you come up with a name for your business and branding. This is not to say that it might change as you go later on, mine did, but it will definitely drive your focus.
For example, you don’t want to name your shop first and go with something like “Pretty Bows Boutique”, create all the branding for this, and then later decide to sell mostly dresses. Obviously that won’t work too well.
So how do you figure out what to sell? Well for me, I was sewing and I started out by creating stuffies or little plush animals and monsters. So I looked on Etsy to see what was already available. To search on Etsy, I used many different keywords and searches to see the range of products that were out there. For example, for my stuffed elephant I would look up “stuffed animal elephant” “baby stuffed animal elephant” “elephant plushie” “elephant pillow” “elephant nursery decor”. etc. This gave me the widest range of what was already out there. My goal was to make something that seemed like there was a market for, but not identical to what was already available. So the fact that were a lot of results for these searches was actually a good thing. Yes, they were competition, but it also meant that enough people were selling it, which means people were buying it. Otherwise they would have stopped making them.
It was also important for me to make mine different or unique. Not only did I create my own original pattern for the stuffed animal, I used fabrics that I knew weren’t being seen already on Etsy because I was buying them in Germany and the Netherlands. Obviously we can’t all do that, and neither can I anymore, but you can strategize by using unique materials, fabrics, etc that are still appealing and on trend. I was determined to push my consumers to go for the more unique, original product, vs the 8millionth version of a grey chevron elephant. I still used appealing prints and fabrics, but they stood out due to their uniqueness.
After you’ve determined your first product, it’s time to come up with a few other items. So to continue with the elephant example, I decided to make a few of these in different fabrics, but I also knew I needed something else. So I decided to stick with the plush category, and create monster stuffies to add to my shop. My overall focus at the time was plush creatures for babies and young children. I did the same kind of research for these that I did for the elephants.
This research also helps you set prices by the way!
Of course it’s fine to expand later, but I think setting yourself an umbrella category to stick to in the beginning is important. It keeps your shop focused while you master your first items. In the beginning you’ll probably still be refining your craft, and other things about your shop, so don’t bother expanding what you’re offering too much. Over time, my product line changed as I continued to research what others were selling, and what was selling well. In addition, what I enjoyed making changed, but overall I kept my original focus of my business geared towards babies, children, and a minor focus on dogs.
So along with researching on Etsy, it’s important to actually design and make your items (that is, if you’re making physical items). I had to figure out the logistics of making these items, including finding the best supplies, finishing them the best way possible, etc. It was important to me that the items I was selling were good quality. At the same time, your goal is to make money, so you have to be mindful of what you pay in supplies. If you’re setting a price point of $12 per stuffed animal, don’t make them with $24 a yard fabric. If you do want to buy the expensive materials, your price point will need to come up, and your product has to be made with great care. As a general rule of thumb I like it when one sale of one item covers the cost of materials, even though those same materials can be used to make 2 or 3 more of the item. If I buy a yard of fabric for $8, use a bit of poly-fil stuffing, thread, then if I sell one elephant for $15 I know for a fact I’ve made a profit, and will make even more if I make a second or third with the remaining materials.
Some other things to consider when deciding what to make:
- You actually enjoy making the item, because your goal is to sell many of them.
- You can buy the materials again when you run out. Okay, so sometimes I do this, and actually working to do this more, but I also love hunting rare finds of fabric that I buy in small quantities. So you definitely want some items you can make over and over, but I do think it’s okay to make some in small quantities, especially if you’re not sure it will be popular. But overall the items I make can be remade, even if its with different fabrics.
- Can you ship this easily? For example, a 20 lb rock sculpture is going to prove difficult to ship and might be best for in person sales ;)I hope I gave you some food for thought if you’re on the fence about opening an Etsy. If you think you’re ready to take the plunge, here are 40 free listings to get you started. There really is so much else to learn but some people like to just jump in! However, as a reminder, I’m working on an e-course that will walk you through all the steps to start off the right way. If you’d like an update about it’s release, please sign up here!
If you’re wondering what stuffed elephant I am talking about, you can actually get the original pattern and make your own right over here. Thank you!