11 Lessons I Wish I Knew When I First Opened My Etsy Store

I am by no means an Etsy expert.  I am continually learning something new, usually based on the mistakes I make along the way and want to share them here.  That being said, boy have I made some mistakes.  As many books and blogs as I read to try to stay ahead of the curve, nothing compares to the education of experience which is why I have had several Etsy stores over the years even though I never indeed sought out to make them a full-time job until now.  I have finally hit a place in my life and Etsy store and art where I feel confident to put it out there and nailed down a formula for running an Etsy shop that works for me.  That being said, I am still learning a lot.  And remember all those blogs and books I mentioned before that I read?  Well, even they didn't prepare me for some of the things I wish I had started doing from day one of my shops.  Not that they didn’t try, I can be pretty stubborn sometimes or little things that don’t seem like a big deal, end up making the world of difference.  Oh if I wasn't so stubborn.

You, however, can start now!  If you are on the cusp of opening your own shop or new to it and want to make sure you are covering your basis then well done!  You’re already searching the internet for ideas and inspiration and somehow found yourself here.  If you are looking for lessons and ideas to make sure you are covering your ass then here are some of the most important lessons I’ve learned along the way and wished I have known and started doing when I first opened Sparkley Ass Bitch on Etsy.


1. Keep an inventory system for EVERYTHING from immediately

This is one that I am paying for now.  I am currently in the process of doing a complete overhaul and inventory of my shop.  Not just products that I sell in my shop, but everything it takes to run my business.  From mailers to the stickers I use to seal my envelopes, I have found it to be so much easier if I just stay on top of what I am using and how much of it I am using so I don’t run out of it at the worst time, like say, when I am packaging up a sold order.   There is nothing more frustrating and time wasting looking to see if I have any backstock when if I had just kept count on my computer in the first place I would know without having to look all around.  I didn’t set it up initially because I didn’t think it would matter for my product and shop but I have learned the hard way how much it does.

THE GIST: Keeping an inventory of everything you need to run your business saves you time in the long run.

2. Presentation is everything

Not just your online presentation but your in-person presentation is essential and can only help your sales.  Making your package stand out and  POP is a great way to get your clients experience with shopping with you off to a good start.  When you deliver a fun envelope that is beautifully presented and is loud enough to get your clients attention, they will take notice and remember.  The same should be happening when a potential customer visits your shop.  Your photos should look beautiful and clean, and your store should feel designed.  Your customers will take notice, and your sales will only benefit.  

THE GIST: Take the time to invest in making sure your presentation is clean from your photos to your packaging.

3. Check Keyword Competition Rate

Using third-party websites like SEOBook.com allows you to check your keywords to see how helpful they are to your listing.  These are phrases and words that you will want to include in your title, description and keyword section when writing your Etsy listing.  All of these are essential pieces to the success of your Etsy listing and will help you move up through the rankings.  I recently went in and checked a few keywords on some listings that were struggling, and after making some changes by comparing the competitive rates of my keywords on SEOBOOK.COM, I went from being on page 5 to the number one spot on page 1.  Since I wasn’t doing that in the first place, I am now going through the long, slow process of going and checking the keywords to try to improve my listings and get them to show up more and more.

THE GIST: Start checking your keywords now to make sure you aren’t using a term that is competitive (another over 5,000 monthly views is too high for me) so that your listings rank faster.

4. Spell it all out for your customers

If you have to say it once you probably should mention it three times when it comes to your customers.  Most people are shopping based on photos and tending to forgo reading the instructions.  If I could make money off of the people who don't read the directions when it comes to my temporary tattoos, I could open a whole other Etsy store.  Not all of it is on them, however.  I was silly enough to think that people would assume not to wash your temporary tattoos so I failed to include that in the packing instructions.  Then the stream of questions about why it was washing off started to come in.  Now my packaging says very clearly to AVOID WATER.  I have to make it painfully clear so that way my clients are happy and taking care of their temporary tattoos without them washing away quickly.  Not only is it a measure to take to ensure your clients are delighted, but it also covers your butt because you stated it.

THE GIST: Be over descriptive when necessary so everyone knows exactly what you're selling, how to use it so there are no surprises that could come back to bite you in the ass later.

5. Three words: Consistency, consistency, CONSISTENCY

Consistency is key.  As far as your brand, online presence, inventory, and marketing go, everything should be consistent and match.  It is all a part of your signature so make sure you are using your colors and your logos in all the right places.  If one thing needs to be updated make sure the rest of your business is updated as well because it might not just be in that one place.  

THE GIST: Make it matchy-matchy so your brand image is always associated with YOU.

6. No Listing is One and Done

Never assume that after a listing is posted, your work is done.  Standing listings that you continue to keep in your shop needs to be cleaned and dusted off after a while.  Eventually, you want to make sure you are taking care of the keywords and updating as necessary so that you aren't letting any opportunity go wasted.  When the holidays start to creep around, you probably want to add keywords so that your items match trending searches, but after the holiday has passed, you don't want to have irrelevant keywords taking up prime SEO space.

THE GIST: Don’t be lazy, always update and clean your store as you would your home.

7. Your Shop, look, and inventory will always be changing so don’t spend your time circling perfect

You can spend months and months not having an Etsy store or a product line because you drag your feet on one item worrying about its final perfection.  I can tell you, being that I have suffered from this many times, it's never worth it.  That one perfect detail will never really make as big a difference as you think it will.  All you are doing is keeping yourself from going forward.  Eventually, you will find your Etsy shop to be a reflection of your style and product which will most likely change as trends and taste change (not just your customers but your own as well).  Much like how an artist portfolio is never finished, neither is your Etsy store truly.  Don’t waste valuable minutes trying to make it perfect because it will never be finished.  You will always be working and improving on it, or else will most likely see your sales stagger.  

THE GIST: Your store will never be 100% finished so don’t waste time starting

8. Recycling Designs Always Saves Time

When I opened my first store, I quickly became burnt out because every single item in my shop was one of a kind, handmade.  That meant I was making, photographing, describing, writing listings for every single item I had.  It was TEDIOUS, and I grew tired of it fast.  Because my pieces were handmade and one of a kind, I couldn't reuse the photographs or descriptions I had already put so much effort and research into.  Every product was something new, and while that does make products unique, when you dedicate your entire store to only that, you get tired.  That’s why when I finally got to the place of opening Sparkley Ass Bitch, I wanted to make sure I was using all of my designs to their full potential.  If you go into my shop, you will most likely find a temporary tattoo that also comes as a sticker, or you will see a sticker that is of a design that is also part of a greeting card.  I love my art and designs and don’t want to limit them to one product which is why I recycle them.  Most, if not all of my designs are drawn and then brainstormed the different ways it can be produced.  

THE GIST: Recycling designs help fill your shop, gives you a more versatile inventory and gives your customer more options.

9. Keep Your Books Organized and Clean

Most people I know open their Etsy stores as a hobby, so they think it isn't as important to treat their financials as a “real” business.   Even if you are thinking of opening a shop just as a hobby, it IS a REAL business, and you need to keep your financial books clean and sorted, so you know exactly how much your spending and how much you’re making.  Without keeping track, you can quickly mismanage your expenses which can be a real mess to sort through. 

THE GIST: Keep it clean and organized because who doesn’t want to know what their money is being spent on?

10. Always Be Thinking About Your Customer

Even if you are creating things that you love and are feeling at the moment, you should be thinking about who will potentially want to buy this product you just put so much effort into.  I think its good to have a mixture of what you want and what you think your clients would want.  I love to draw cats all day long, but I know that creating just cat artwork pigeon holes me to a tiny niche.  By including other art like dog illustrations or food, it opens me up to more interests and expands my potential demographic.  I'm not saying to draw something you hate.  You will never find dark or death related art in my shop.  It’s just not me.  But if I see that my customers have been searching for donut stickers, I will consider working on some potential designs to add tot he shop.

THE GIST: Your customers know precisely what they want to buy so pay attention to what they like, so you stay on their radar.

11. Customers Sometimes Don’t Realize You're a Person and not a Corporation

This was a tough one for me to move past.  After I was flooded with good reviews, I was crushed when I got my first bad review.  It was two stars, and the temporary tattoo had washed off after the first day (remember how I mentioned that before??  See, you have to spell it out).  Even though the review wasn't that bad, it was written as if I was some corporate monster out to get people for their money.  I have received multiple emails on vintage, one of a kind items seeing if I have the garment in another size or if they can order multiples of the same dress for bridal parties.  My favorite was when a customer didn't even realize I was the actual artist behind the designs.  When you run an Etsy shop, you know how much time, effort and work you put into it so its easy to forget how you are seen to your clientele for the most part, as an online store.  They don’t know you or who you are when they visit your shop unless they follow you.  Once you start ranking up and reaching out to people outside your sphere, they’re just going to see that shop and not the single artist or knitter or woodworker behind it.  There isn’t much you can do to avoid it but when you do encounter it, take it with a grain of salt and don't hold onto it.  As I said, when I had my first bad review I was crushed, but I needed to move on and not dwell because it was one bad one compared to lots of good ones.  

THE GIST: The internet won’t see you as the incredible, hard-working talent all the time and you might run into buttheads but its ok because you’re a total badass babe and you’ve got this so keep chugging along and soon enough, the world will know.