Four Things I Wish I Knew Before Selling on Etsy

If someone told me years ago that I would one day be running my own online business, I probably would have laughed. It was so out of the realm of my "life plan," that it was never even a blip on my radar. But eventually, these plans all came crashing down (read all about that here), and I needed a plan B. Enter Etsy.

The day came where I finally decided to turn my crafty hobbies into a business opportunity. For my first experience on Etsy, I sold nautical-themed items for weddings and home decor. I spent countless hours twisting and tying rope to make it into something special. But after about a year and a half, I realized that my heart wasn't in it for the long-haul, and that the passion for my product just wasn't there. I had learned an incredible amount about the site itself, but boy were my hands killing me! I have since started a second printable shop that has freed up more of my time, and brought my family a life-changing extra income.

The great thing about Etsy is that you can bring your hobbies and creations to a large-scale marketplace with very little risk. Unlike "back in the day," it doesn't take thousands of dollars to launch a business. It can now be done with just a few clicks of a mouse. Since 2014, I have learned the in's and outs of Etsy through running my shops. I have read so many how-to articles, spent countless hours engaging and learning from other creative business owners, and worked through plenty of problems with excruciating trial and error. But even with all of the technical knowledge I’ve soaked in, there are some even more important lessons I have learned through my experience that I am eager to share. 

So let's dive in! 

1. Etsy is not going to do the work for you.

Congratulations! You are up and running on the creative mega-giant of the internet. It's time for the sales to start rolling in and for business to skyrocket... right?

Pump the brakes, my friend. Just being on the site alone is not enough. Think of it this way: when you set up shop on Etsy, you are basically paying to rent a space on their property. Not only are you abiding by their rules, but they are not obligated to do any promotional work for you. It is your sole responsibility to drive customers your way and turn traffic into sales.

It is very possible that your first few days, weeks, or even months could seem to move at a snails pace, and that's perfectly okay. But rather than sit and stir and check your shop statistics every 60 seconds (not that I did that or anything), spring yourself into action instead. Because once that first sale does happen, what’s your next move? Better yet—what are your next three, four or five moves? What do you want to accomplish after that first “cha-ching?”

Tip: Time to roll up your sleeves and dig in. Grab my FREE printable business goal-setting sheet. Writing down your goals and plans is such a healthy habit when trying to sort out all of the business-y thoughts in your head!

2. Boundaries are key.

By boundaries, I am specifically talking about how you plan to serve your customers while still having a firm grip on your sanity.

When I first began my Etsy ventures, I would take on any and every request just to get a sale. I would do things like staying up late to work, even if I had to be up early the next morning. I would find myself needing to check on my shop while spending quality time with family, and would be answering countless emails during family vacations. Needless to say, my work/personal life boundaries were pretty fuzzy. I was obsessed, to say the least.

Business can be so addicting. That "high" you get from a sale feels so gratifying because someone is valuing your hard work and what you are bringing to the table. Everything is new and exciting and you want to grow this online baby the best you can… but at what personal cost? You have to know when to put up a little fence between your business and home life. What’s that saying about fences making good neighbors?

Tip: It's easy to let your business invade every waking thought. But making the most of your dedicated work time will leave you feeling more accomplished, and you may be less likely to always have that running to-do list in your head. Try tackling a few key questions before starting out so that you can have a more clear approach to your business model:

  • What types of products are you selling?
  • What variations will you offer (sizes, colors, etc)?
  • Will you accept custom requests? If so, do you feel comfortable turning down a request you cannot fulfill?

  • 3. Take time to celebrate your success.

    In my opinion, this is by-far one of the most overlooked areas of owning your own business. We are so focused on grinding to put out content and build an inventory that sometimes we don’t step back to say “wow! I did that!"

    Even just showing up for your business and moving forward is reason to give yourself a pat on the back. I want you to think about how many times a day you are actually appreciating yourself and your work. If you're having trouble coming up with an answer, then it's probably time to chug your train down to appreciation station. I want you to think about the celebration of your success as the fuel in your gas tank, and remember that the car will never move if you're always running on fumes (okay, enough with my transportation analogies).

    Tip: Bust out the pen and paper (old school style!) and write down 3-5 recent business accomplishments-- anything counts! Put it on a post-it or tape it up somewhere that you'll be able to see it on a regular basis as a reminder of what you've done. Easy enough, right? You may be surprised at what a difference this makes, so get to it, my friend!

    4. Be kind to yourself and ditch the comparison game.

    Easier said than done, right?

    My first few months on Etsy, I was a complete head-case. I would see other shops with thousands upon thousands of sales, yet I was grinding to just get one. I felt like a hamster spinning on a wheel with no forward movement, and I wanted the overnight success without the dirty work. Sound familiar? Go ahead-- we've all been there!

    Comparing our business and our craft to one another can be really demoralizing. We put so much love and heart into our passions and we have the courage to put it out into the world—and all of a sudden, we start to nit-pick when we see someone else doing amazing. We find ourselves comparing our beginning to someone else's middle and it becomes toxic. Knocking ourselves down with comparison and standing in the way of our own creativity is like building a brick wall right in front of our feet.

    The truth is, with the right mix of technical know-how, quality product, and downright hard work, the success will come. At the risk of sounding cliche, this is a marathon, not a sprint. Instead of charging full-speed ahead from the start, take the time to stretch your muscles, take a breath and go at a pace that is right for you-- not anyone else.

    You, my friend, are on your way. Stay positive, stay hungry, and stay creative! ;)