For the past two years, since I started crocheting, a pile of bags, stuffed animals, and blankets have started to build up in my room. And, although I absolutely love crafting, I had no idea what to do with the mountain of goods that I didn’t have the heart to throw away, but didn’t want to keep. So I turned to Etsy. If you didn’t know already, Etsy is a site where artisans and the like go to list and sell their products. And, while browsing in preparation for opening my shop, I noticed that people sell anything and everything - posters, designs and prints, crocheted stuffed animals and crochet patterns, records, shoes, backpacks, and much, much more. However, with this discovery came the realization that every shop owner sells differently - their shipping prices vary, the cost of their listings are wildly different, and more. So, I decided to reach out to some Etsy sellers and ask them a few questions about the process of opening their shop.
What can you sell?
This was a hard question to answer
because you can sell basically anything. Of course, there are those professionals whose job is selling their products on Etsy, and then there’s us. For the sake of this article, I tried to search for the most random things on the site, and I got what I was looking for. I found an extremely successful shop where the seller just goes to a thrift store and buys you flannel shirts, calling it a “thrifted mystery box”. The picture below shows the weird variety of what I found on the site - from Brandy Melville stickers (which, yes, are free in the store) to custom popcorn buckets for your family for upwards of $20. Yes, you heard me right. Someone bought plastic popcorn buckets and painted names on them. For $20.
So, you really can sell anything - the buckets and thrifted mystery boxes show this perfectly; just think, what are you passionate about? Are there any crafts you’ve always wanted to try but never have? Do you have any vintage clothes, toys, or records? Because if you want to sell it, I promise, someone will buy it.
How did you price your product?
Half the reason that I haven’t opened my shop yet (the other being that I am a master at procrastination) is that the process of pricing has stressed me out to no end. If you have too high of a price, no one will buy your product. If you price too low, buyers will be suspicious and think there’s something wrong with what you’re selling. For example, if I were trying to sell a crocheted bag, I would look at others that are selling similar bags and cut that price down to something reasonable to me. Horribly for me, though, bags like that sell at an average price of WAY TOO EXPENSIVE, so I can either match that and get no bites or list it for around $50 and get countless messages saying “Is there a catch?”
However, most of the sellers I messaged have it completely figured out. Many “star sellers”, as they are called on Etsy, had a lot of good answers to this question. They mainly suggested looking at other shops selling the same thing as you and trying to compete with their prices. Etsy seller Jim offers some advice: “You have to account for the raw materials [and] the other expenses of your business including your phone, workspaces, utilities, etc.” The creator of a jewelry shop also adds some insight when it comes to pricing, “The way I price pieces is by calculating how much the piece of jewelry costs to make, then I add an amount that feels reasonable to me . . . then I double this amount.” And, even though this last statement really surprised me, it is pretty smart. Your price might be expensive, but it is probably a lot cheaper than other stores that are selling the same thing; the entire pricing process is just trying to compete with other stores and figuring out how much your time is worth - are you putting a lot of love and care into this product? If so, it should cost more.
How much inventory do you like to have at any given time?
For most of the shops I messaged, this was a hard question to answer. Some do custom orders, which means they have nothing on their shelves at any given time, and others, like the thrifted mystery box, just have boxes and boxes of inventory. I’ve noticed that it depends. If you have a limited amount of inventory, then you really shouldn’t worry about it. If you want to be able to package and send an order off the day it’s placed, you should have at least 20 of what you’re selling. Or, as shop owner Suzanne states, “just start making what you love, and make a LOT of it.”
How do you handle shipping and how did you decide your shipping price?
This question was answered in a lot of different ways; Deedee, a successful dressmaker with a shop on this site, says: “I offer free shipping and absorb the shipping fee.” This would mean that you just establish whatever price you want, then add what you think shipping would be to that price. I think this is a really good method because as a very avid online shopper, I absolutely hate shipping fees. When I see that the product is free shipping, however, it doesn’t even matter to me how much the actual thing costs - because shipping is free!! Sabrina, an owner of the previously mentioned thrifted mystery box, lets us in on a little secret regarding shipping - “Let Etsy calculate the shipping price…put in your dimensions.” And, after interviewing a few more sellers, I found this to be true. You put in the size and weight of your package and Etsy does the rest - it might be the easiest part of this entire process.
What do you wish you had known / any advice?
The sellers I messaged had a lot of good advice for you guys: Suzanne, the creator of a jewelry shop, says: “Just go for it!. . Spend time typing all the listings and making sure they are thorough and complete.” Anna, the owner of the store AnnaMadeAPot, states: “Etsy gives an advantage to new shops and pushes them up in the search . . . so take advantage of that!” Many sellers had advice such as: take your time, don’t rush into opening a store, and don’t worry, because it takes some time to get to a point where you are regularly selling items, so be patient.
We’ve all done some of our online shopping over the years- whether this would be for clothes, room decor, or yes, sometimes for those weirder things like thrifted mystery boxes or personalized band-aids. However, now it’s time to start selling. Find what you’re passionate about, and make some money off of it. To quote Etsy seller Sabrina, “Celebrate your little wins . . . and don’t give up!”