How to Grow Your Etsy/Online Business

6 years ago

I remember the weeks leading up to "starting my Etsy shop". I must have talked myself out of it 1,000 times--literally. I made excuses like, what if nothing sells? what will my friends think? what if I make a mistake on an order? what if no one likes my designs? what about the financial risks for the start up costs? and on and on...But then one night, I took the plunge. I remember the nerves in my stomach as I clicked "purchase" at two in the morning for my very first order of supplies. The total was $178 and I immediately thought about all the other ways I could be spending that money. But there was no turning back now.

About a week later, my supplies arrived and I got to work on designing. And then, a few days later, I clicked "publish" and made my site live for the world to see.

But the world didn't fact, hardly anyone did.
Sales were slow. Like slow slow.

And I won't lie, I got discouraged. As orders trickled, I eventually learned that there was so much more to growing my online business than I had realized. Now, I'm not pretending I am some hugely successful shop owner--hardly. However, I have created a business that is growing at a pace I am comfortable working at. I'm certainly no Lisa Leonard, Barn Owl Primitives or Pleated Poppy, but I have learned some helpful lessons along my journey.

Here is a peek into my workspace this afternoon {during nap time}--pure chaos:

Clearly I haven't learned how to create in an "organized" fashion, but I have learned some other tips along the way. Here they are:

Getting Started: You probably have a lot of ideas, and that's fabulous. When starting your shop, I suggest picking your favorite ideas and starting there. Don't go crazy, creating a ton of designs to launch your shop. Maybe start with a dozen. Then, once your shop has been open for a little bit you can get a better idea of what's most popular.

Shop Banner: I know nothing about even the most basic graphic design. So I hired Dumplin Design Studios to create my banner for a very reasonable price.

Business Cards: Dumplin Design also created my business cards to match my blog and shop. Again, super affordable. I have my business cards printed at

Shipping: Determine what method of shipping you are going to use. USPS, UPS, FedEx, etc. I use USPS first class mail. I either print my shipping labels from paypal, or I take them to the post office and wait in line the old fashioned way. It is waaaayyyy cheaper to buy your shipping supplies online rather than at the post office. You can find bubble mailers for really cheap at the Dollar Tree. I get my bubble mailers from JP Sales, and they seem to be the best bulk prices I have found--and they are wonderful to work with.

Pricing: There is a fine line between setting a price that makes this worth your time and setting a price close to similar items in your market--and both are super important. You don't want to price yourself so low that you can't justify the time you spend on your shop AND you don't want to price yourself right out of the market. So do some research and see what other people in the your product category are charging.

Budget: You could literally spend thousands and thousands of dollars to start up an online business. But that isn't realistic for most of us. So I encourage you to set a "start-up" budget. What are you comfortable spending on initial supplies, packaging and marketing?

Branding: Consistency is key when it comes to branding. Branding can be seen in the form of gift packaging, business cards, promotions, shop banners, newsletters, facebook, blogging, twitter, pinterest. These are all opportunities for you to sell your brand. And it is important that your brand look the same across all mediums--use the same logo, the same font, the same avatar, the same type of photography, and similar colors. You want to brand yourself in such a way that someone will know a product is yours the moment they see the packaging. For example, I see a little blue box and I immediately envision beautiful Tiffany's jewelry.Packaging: This is the fun part. Sometimes I am compelled to buy a product just because I know I am going to love the packaging. I could go crazy with an elaborate design for my shop, but I also have to keep in mind affordability and time. I don't have enough time to spend hours on my gift boxes, but I still want them to look pretty. So, here is how I package my jewelry:

Super simple. I recommend using Notable Notions for your packaging supplies. I have done my research and they have great prices, plus they ship super fast. I get my kraft boxes from them, and they also offer great displays and other packaging components. My rubber stamp is from JLMould on etsy, and I made sure it had my web address on it so that gift recipients would know how to find my shop.

Here is how I package my pillows and table runners:

I get my tissue paper in fun colors from the Dollar Tree and Walmart. Then I tie it with a simple twine bow. Twine makes me happy, and I would like to have it in every color.

You can find lovely and colorful twine at The Twinery and Pretty Tape.
Click here to see other fun packaging ideas I pinned.

Amidst my late night etsy searching I also found these fabulous shops that can help you spruce up your packaging:

Photography: When we go shopping, we see, we touch, we even sometimes smell the item we are interested in purchasing. When ordering online, we only have the picture and description to go from. You can have the a dozen different shops selling the exact same item and I can promise you, the one with the best picture will get more sales--even if they are the most expensive. Make sure your photos are light and bright, no dark backgrounds. Be sure to get some close ups (you don't want a buyer to think you have anything to hide). Please NO blurry images. This post also has some helpful tips on taking good product shots. Also, if you are on Etsy, be sure to use ALL five photo spaces--the more pictures the better.

Marketing: This topic could be a post all to itself. But for now, I will keep it simple. The most affordable way to advertise your online business is through blogs that have readers similar to your target market--duh, right. I have found more success when I offer a discount in combination with a giveaway. And I have had the BEST results advertising on Tatertots & Jello and Love Stitched. In fact, I am having a giveaway over at TT&J now!

Newsletter: I don't do this--but I should. I have heard first hand from VERY successful online businesses, that as soon as they started a monthly newsletter {with discount codes and promotions} they saw a 20% increase in their sales--true story. SEO and Keywords: How you title your items is critical. Sure its cute and also good marketing to come up with clever names for your products--but that doesn't help a search engine find you. So you need to be sure to put other key words in your description. The first few sentences of your shop welcome section are also important--for they are the words that search engines pick up--so don't waste this section with a personal bio or the history of your shop. Instead, use the first few sentences of your welcome section to incorporate as many key words describing your shop as possible. For example: Little Miss Momma carries a variety of cottage chic home decor items {ruffled pillows and burlap table runners} as well as rose cabochon necklaces, unique cabochon statement/cocktail rings, anthropologie-inspired hair pin sets, and more unique couture accessories.

Social Media: Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest. You gotta do it. Maybe not everything on that list--but at least one thing. Take Barn Owl Primitives for example. She doesn't blog, but she has a crazy successful online business. And she just so happens to be a facebook goddess. You can almost always find her on fb--captivating us with her words of wisdon, her fun finds, and her totally loveable personality. She facebooks about everything, from style, to home decor, to crafting, to current affairs, etc. And then, when it's appropriate, she also gives you updates on her shop. Because she doesn't just promote herself all the time, people actually want to read what she posts--and it works! She topped over 1,000 sales in no time at all! Rock on girl!

Integrity: Have it. There are bound to be multiple shops carrying very similar items as you, and that's okay. It doesn't mean you copied them, or they copied you. But if you ever have the opportunity to blatantly copy, please don't. I promise, you are more capable than you even know of coming up with your own unique designs, and you will find so much more fulfillment through the creative process.

Manage Expectations: Don't be too hard on yourself if you don't explode overnight, or after a week, or a month. The process can take time. And don't compare yourself to other successful shops out there--because for every 1 of them, there are 1,000 others working towards success at this very moment. Work hard, have faith, and believe in yourself.

This is an article written by one of the incredible members of the SheKnows Community. The SheKnows editorial team has not edited, vetted or endorsed the content of this post. Want to join our amazing community and share your own story? Sign up here.

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