How To Sell On Etsy: Everything You Need To Know [Guide]
Estimated reading time: 26 minutes.
Etsy is the home of the makers, the doers, the dreamers, and the creators.
Original, vintage, and hand-made products are Etsy’s trade. So naturally, it attracts crafty sellers wanting to share their talents and skills.
But Etsy is an ecommerce platform first and foremost - one with a trade value of $2 billion on the NYSE.
Selling on Etsy successfully takes more than simply signing up and listing a product.
The top sellers understand their place and that of their customers in the bigger picture. They know exactly who their customers are, their shopping behaviors and triggers, and how to leverage everything Etsy (and the wider ecommerce retail space) has to offer, to maximize their selling potential.
And that’s what this guide will teach you, so you can spend maximum time making and minimal time managing.
In this Etsy beginners guide, you’ll find all the tools you need to set up your shop for success this year.
Table of Contents
Introducing Etsy Marketplace
The brainchild of Rob Kalin, Chris Maguire, Jared Tarbell and Haim Schoppik, Etsy was founded in Brooklyn, NY, in June 2005.
Stories as to how and why it came about vary, shifting between Kalin’s desire to sell his own woodwork online, and the founders finding inspiration whilst experimenting with website building.
When asked about where the name came from, Kalin had this to say:
“I wanted a nonsense word because I wanted to build the brand from scratch. I was watching Fellini’s 8 ½ and writing down what I was hearing. In Italian, you say ‘etsi’ [‘eh, si’] a lot. It means ‘oh, yes.’ And in Latin, it means ‘and if.'”
By January 2008, Etsy employed 50 people, counted over 650,000 users, 120,000 sellers and was spread across 127 countries.
By 2010, it was worth about $100 million.
By 2014, sales reached almost $2 billion.
“Etsy debuted at just the right time: Indie craft shows had started popping up around the U.S. in the early 2000s, but running your own online store was a complicated task. Most of the people who joined Etsy in those first few years were like me—independent crafters who were already at least somewhat established IRL—and the quality of the goods on the site was generally high.”
The Etsy founders got off the internet and onto the streets of Brooklyn, meeting the makers at markets. It gave buyers and sellers a place to connect online, and became just as much a hub of craft supply as the supply of hand-made goods themselves.
And with the concurrent invention and growth of social media, Etsy was propelled into the digital space by its creative community. Social media remains a key component of Etsy’s marketing strategies.
Etsy has come a long way in less than 20 years, but what does joining the platform today look like?
What Selling on Etsy in 2021 Looks Like
Before we delve into the mechanics of how to sell on Etsy, let’s see what the company has been up to most recently.
How does Etsy improve its offering to meet changing buyer and seller needs?
The latest from Etsy
In Etsy’s first-quarter press release for 2021, it listed some of the company’s latest initiatives that have helped enhance buyer and seller experience on the platform.
Some of the highlights include:
- Updates to the Sell on Etsy app with the addition of “Convos” to help buyers and sellers better connect and communicate. Sellers are also able to create custom orders straight from the app, based on communications with buyers.
- Elevation of select businesses with a common, topical cause. For Black History Month, stores owned by people of color were given another elevated platform to boost awareness.
- Off-site ads were expanded to include more affiliate channels, including the Google Display Network.
- Buyers paying with Etsy Payments can choose to round up their order and donate to Etsy’s Uplift Fund. The Uplift Fund helps nonprofits that teach entrepreneurship and break down the barriers to selling online. Learn more about Etsy’s advocacy initiatives here.
- Targets were set for more sustainable operations and to become a carbon-neutral business by 2030. These are both internal to Etsy and with regards to its seller packaging and shipping requirements too. Find out more about Etsy’s ecological impacts here.
As Etsy learns more about its buyers and sellers, the way they work, communicate, and what they care about, the platform evolves.
So, who exactly are the buyers and sellers? Why do they choose Etsy, and how should that impact how you sell?
In 2012, Etsy hosted around 9.3 million buyers. By the second quarter of 2020, that number surpassed 80 million:
- Millennial (18-35 years old)
To better understand their changing shopping behavior, Etsy regularly posts shopper stats as part of its seller handbook.
These are helpful for understanding what customers are looking for in real-time, and can help you tweak your product and advertising decisions accordingly.
These were the findings from Etsy’s March 2021 surveys, as an example:
- Shoppers are often treating themselves, unless it’s a holiday (like Mother’s Day), when they buy for others.
- 77% said they’re likely to spend more money online than in-store this year.
- 24% said they plan to buy something customized or personalized from Etsy.
- 22% said they come to Etsy to refresh their home decor, including outdoor and garden items, and indoor organizational items.
- International sales increased 145%, with the UK being the biggest Etsy marketplace outside of the US.
Knowing this kind of information, you can adjust your messaging to target the right audience segments.
We know that Etsy sellers are makers, but who are they, exactly?
Here we’ll be focusing on Etsy sellers in the US, but the 2020 Seller Census also contains demographics for the marketplace as a whole, Etsy UK, Canada, and Europe.
If you’re operating outside of the US, check out your peers by location.
- 49% of sellers were selling on the platform for the first time.
- 82% were businesses of one.
- 98% operated out of their homes.
- 28% of them on and off Etsy relied solely on their creative business.
- 18% had help, with most hiring less than 5 people.
- 54% sold on other channels too, online and offline.
- 42% of sellers that started selling last year did so because of COVID-19.
- On average, new sellers in 2020 saw more than double the number of orders in their first 30 days compared to new sellers in 2019.
For context, let’s take a look at Etsy demographics compared with those of the wider US population:
Source: Etsy Seller Census.
In terms of employment status of Etsy sellers in 2020, almost half worked independently:
Source: Etsy Seller Census.
According to this census, the main challenges of Etsy sellers last year were:
- Marketing their business (50%).
- Dealing with inconsistent sales (48%).
Hopefully with some understanding of the current Etsy seller base, you can see where you might fit into the wider community.
These demographics help show what’s possible whilst selling on Etsy, and can help frame whether it is a good fit for your lifestyle.
The rules for selling on Etsy
One last thing to do before we dive into setting up an Etsy shop is checking the rules.
Below are some of the key rules for selling on Etsy.
Find the full policy here, and the specific policies linked within the text below:
- Everything listed for sale on Etsy must be handmade, vintage, or a craft supply.
- Handmade items are items that are made and/or designed by you, the seller.
- Vintage items must be at least 20 years old.
- Craft supplies are tools, ingredients, or materials whose primary purpose is for use in the creation of an item or special occasion. Craft supplies may be handmade, commercial, or vintage.
- Even if they otherwise meet Etsy’s marketplace criteria, prohibited items, services, and items that violate its intellectual property policies are not allowed to be sold on Etsy.
- Reselling is not allowed in the handmade category on Etsy. Reselling refers to listing an item as handmade when you were not involved in designing or making that item.
Make sure you’ve read and understood all of Etsy’s other standards for seller behavior and operations before you sign up to use the platform.
How to Sell Stuff on Etsy: A Beginner’s Step-by-Step Guide
This is it! Time to get moving.
We are going to cover the steps that you need to take in order to open up shop on Etsy. For each step, we’ll cover the basics, instructions, and how to optimize it.
You might not be ready to do it all now, so bookmark or save the page for later.
Choosing what to sell on Etsy
Whether you’re interested in greeting cards, vintage items, clothes, art, jewelry, crafts or t-shirts, choosing what to sell on Etsy needs to be based on research first.
Researching whether your product will sell on Etsy:
Marketplaces are getting saturated, and as we saw above, over half of US Etsy sellers don’t just sell on Etsy.
Whilst you might have an idea as to your product, you’ll need to make it stand out.
Cover these bases before you settle on your first product or product line:
- Scope out your competition. How many sellers are already listing similar items? What are the price points? Look on and off Etsy. What are buyers rating well and not rating so well? What lessons can you learn from those insights?
- Is a cheaper version of your item being mass-produced and sold cheap? If so, how can you make yours unique - and worth paying that bit more?
- Is yours the best option? Even if the above point isn’t the case, what can you do to make yours the best out there? It doesn’t have to be flash, you could spend more time packaging products, making the unboxing experience special.
- Will your item sell well online? Not everything is suited to remote shopping. Is there something you can do to help buyers convert when shopping online? Maybe high-quality photos, videos, and/or demonstrations will help you boost conversions?
Planning how you’ll sell on Etsy
Once you have some idea where your products will sit in the wider Etsy and ecommerce space, it’s time to start planning.
Creating an Etsy business plan will give you a blueprint for your journey. You will set goals and milestones, and figure out the tools required to get there.
By doing this, you can ensure every cent you spend on your shop is invested with the bigger picture top of mind.
In brief, your Etsy business plan should include:
- An executive summary of your business.
- A description of your business.
- Product descriptions: the what, why, how, and who (you are targeting).
- Operations: how will your business run?
- Marketing: how will your business become a brand and interact with customers?
- Your accounting: how will you manage it?
- Milestones to measure your progress, successes, and room for improvement.
You may not know the answers to the above yet, and that’s ok. By getting the framework in place, you can add to this over time - but having an incomplete map is better than none at all.
Use our Etsy business plan template to get you started.
Setting up the backend of your Etsy store
Armed with your business plan, you can start building your Etsy store infrastructure.
Whilst there are numerous apps and integrations to make selling quicker, easier, and more successful, the one piece of software you need to start with is for your accounts.
Managing the money of a business is a whole other ball game, and should be treated as such from the offset.
A common mistake that many sellers make is not separating their personal and business finances, and managing their accounts with Excel spreadsheets.
Reasons you need Etsy accounting software for your business:
- To keep business cash flow entirely separate from your personal finances.
- To give you a scalable solution that can grow with your business (unlike spreadsheets).
- To automate much of your bookkeeping so that you can spend as much time as possible on other areas of your business.
- To help you track and monitor your sales tax compliance (which needs to be a priority).
- To help you track tax-deductible business expenses for income tax filing.
- To give you the option of outsourcing your bookkeeping or any aspect of it, and have it managed properly.
- To keep business cash flow secure, encrypted, and accessible remotely.
Opening your Etsy shop
Amazing, you’ve got all the fundamentals in place. You’re already in a better position than many new sellers were when they got started.
Now it’s time to sign up to Etsy, and build your store.
How to launch an Etsy store:
- Scroll to the bottom of the Etsy homepage and click Sell on Etsy.
- Enter your details to continue and register.
- Select the Shop Manager button shown below to set your shop preferences.
- Clicking Save and continue will take you to the next step: naming your shop.
- Enter your shop name to continue. Your Etsy shop name should meet the following criteria:
- 4-20 characters long.
- No spaces or special characters.
- No profanity.
- No names already trademarked.
- Listing your products comes next. You’ll need to add one listing to be able to open your shop, but you can come back to optimize it later (which we’ll cover in part 5 below). Each listing costs $0.20c.
- You’ll need product photos for your listing. Make sure these are excellent quality, professional hi-res images - or make a plan to add them later!
- You also have the option to add videos to your listing. If your product lends itself well to videos, consider boosting your competitive edge and check out Etsy’s guide to making them with your smartphone here.
- You’ll then be asked for the listing details. The more detail and specifications you include here the better: your traffic will be more targeted, you’ll be easier to find, and customers will appreciate your transparency.
This can also be optimized for SEO which we’ll explore in further down.
- If part of your products are made or produced by someone else, you’ll need to select Add a product partner under your description and fill this in.
- Enter the price of your product and inventory quantity. You can also add SKUs if you use them to help identify your stock.
- You can add personalization and variation options to your listings so that customers can get that Etsy experience the platform is famous for.
- You’ll need to save delivery profiles. Etsy calculates shipping costs for you based on item weight and size, but you can override these.
- Scroll to the bottom of the screen and preview your listing. Once you’re happy, click Save and continue.
- The next step after adding your listing is to input your payment information. First will be where you’ll be sent your settlements, and then how you’ll pay your fees.
- Finally, you’ll need to verify your bank account. Etsy will deposit a small amount into your account to test the connection. Head to Shop manager > Dashboard > Shop advisor > Verify account to complete the process.
That’s it! Your shop should now be live.
Once you’re up and running, it’s time to optimize those listings so that your products have the best chance of conversion.
Listing your Etsy products
Before spending a cent on advertising, there are things you can do for free to your product listings to boost visibility and conversions.
We have an entire blog dedicated to Etsy SEO which covers all this in detail.
Here, we’ll cover some of the key aspects that are discussed in the blog.
Here’s a sneak peek of our Etsy SEO blog:
- Etsy matches words used in your product title and tags with search terms used by customers. Do some keyword research to find out what these are.
- It rates the words at the beginning of your title more highly than at the end.
- Etsy rates listings more highly if keywords are present in both titles and tags.
- You’ll be asked to list product attributes when you list an item. These impact SEO, so make sure you pick as many relevant ones as you can. Examples of attributes are colors, occasions, and celebrations.
- Listing quality impacts SEO, and this is affected by how customers engage with listings. If customers click on, save, or favorite a listing, this helps its quality score. New stores have a neutral score which neither helps nor diminishes their performance.
- Great reviews, a complete About section, and complete shop policies help Etsy determine that customers will likely have a good experience with you. So the better these are, the higher you’ll rank. Using Etsy policy templates will also help.
- Ensure you have delivery profiles set, and that these are attractive to buyers. Etsy recounts that buyers have specified postage price as a key factor they take into consideration when shopping on the platform.
Advertising and promoting your products
Etsy advertising can take many different forms, and not all of them have been popular to date.
Some sellers are automatically opted into ads which they can’t opt out of, so it’s best to come to grips with how they work and how you can make the most of them.
We have an entire blog dedicated to Etsy advertising and promoted listings, so here, we’ll pick out some of the key things to know.
Here’s a sneak peek of our Etsy advertising blog:
- When you launch a campaign on Etsy, by default, your entire store is promoted. You can change this, but in the beginning, this may be a good way to learn which of your products are most popular with your customers.
- You can set up Etsy sales and coupons to promote special offers for your store and control which customers receive or view them.
- To promote a listing, you’ll need to set a budget of $10-25, and you’ll only be charged when a customer clicks on your ad.
- Sellers making more than $10,000 in revenue after 365 consecutive days are opted into offsite ads and not able to opt out. Smaller sellers with less revenue are also opted in, but able to opt out.
Learn more about the ins and outs of Etsy advertising in our dedicated blog.
Etsy apps and integrations
Apps and integrations exist to make your life easier.
You can achieve more without sacrificing the time you need to make your products.
From your accounts to fulfilment, social media, more sales channels, customer relationship management, and even apps to help you with your production processes, the choices are endless.
Some apps can be integrated directly through Etsy by navigating to Shop manager > Integrations.
There’s no denying that social media played a fundamental role in the fast expansion of Etsy, and sellers still integrate it into their marketing strategies today.
But there are a number of different platforms all requiring a different approach for a different audience, so where do you start?
If you’ve read this entire blog thus far, then hopefully you have some idea as to Etsy’s audience, and your own. Based on what you know about your customers, use the strengths and weaknesses of each channel to decide which is likely to give you the best return.
You can of course pick more than one, but understanding which best serves your customers can help focus any marketing spend you may choose to invest.
Facebook users in the US as of April 2021:
- Audience: broad and varied, 25-34yo age group is the largest segment.
- Good for: videos, live videos, curated photo albums, customer communications through messenger.
- Not so good for: Reaching the teen audience and younger.
Instagram users in the US as of February 2021:
- Audience: Younger, mostly between 18-29yo. Females make up a slightly larger user base in the US than males at 56.5% versus 43.5%.
- Good for: strong, curated visuals, attracting influencers and affiliates, cross-promotion, giveaways, behind the scenes videos through Stories, and reaching a younger audience base.
- Not so good for: Excessively promotional or long-form content.
Pinterest reach in the US by age group, Q3 2020:
- Audience: Broad, with good potential to reach older audiences.
- Good for: on-trend products and trend lovers, those looking for inspiration, visual thinkers.
- Not so good for: Excessively promotional content or long copy.
How to connect Etsy to your social media
The Etsy social media tool lets you connect your accounts so that you can make instant updates across channels from your desktop or the Sell on Etsy app.
- From your desktop, navigate to Shop manager > Marketing > Social media.
Select your social accounts to connect them to your Etsy store.
- From the app, navigate to More > Marketing > Social media.
Select your listing, promotion, or milestone that you want to share. You can upload photos and include hashtags for maximum impact. Select Share.
Expanding onto other channels
According to Etsy’s seller census from 2020, 54% of Etsy sellers use another sales channel too.
Etsy is a marketplace facilitator like Amazon and eBay. It brings customers to its sellers, and gives them the tools to build their own store.
But what it doesn’t do is give them complete freedom of expression and expansion - and that’s why they might look elsewhere.
Shopify is not a marketplace facilitator. It is an ecommerce platform that enables sellers to build their own pages and brand from scratch.
You can blog for extra SEO juice, design your site from the ground up, and essentially operate however you want to.
“Building brand loyalty on Etsy is hard. Most of the time, a customer’s loyalty is to Etsy, not to your brand.”
- Olivia, Etsy/Shopify seller.
There is an Etsy widget for Shopify which can be used to link accounts. Customers can browse products on Shopify, and be sent to Etsy to complete a purchase.
This allows sellers to get started with all the tools and help of Etsy, then expand out to a platform that can help them spread their wings.
By adding another sales channel for your Etsy store, you can:
- Sell more! Just be sure to optimize your strategies and approach for the new channel. Each requires something different.
- Manage risk. Marketplace facilitators hold all your cards. If something goes wrong and your store is suspended, having others will take that pressure off your business.
- Leverage economies of scale. This may be trickier for Etsy sellers who make everything themselves, but if you have higher demand, you may be able to save money purchasing wholesale materials.
If you are keen to expand, make sure your accounts can cope. By integrating A2X for Etsy with your Etsy accounting software and store, you’ll be good to go.
Another Way to Sell on Etsy: Etsy Pattern
Want more creative freedom over your Etsy store?
In 2016, Etsy announced the launch of a new ecommerce service: Etsy Pattern.
Etsy’s version of Shopify, Pattern gives sellers more freedom to create their own store separate from but connected to Etsy marketplace.
You need to be an Etsy seller first, with active listings, in order to move onto Pattern. Pattern allows you more creative freedom for your storefront, and you can buy custom domains too.
Check out the video below to see how it works, and whether it may be worth going down this route for your Etsy store:
More Help for Your Etsy Business
There’s a lot to selling online, and Etsy is no exception.
That’s why we’ve created numerous guides to help new and existing sellers smash their goals and keep on growing.
Check out more of our seller resources below, and our blog here, which is updated with new Etsy content regularly:
- Etsy Business Plan Template
- How to Set Up Your Etsy Seller Account
- Good Etsy Shop Names and How to Find Yours
- Etsy Integration Guide: Simplify Your Business
- Etsy Advertising & Promoted Listings
- Etsy SEO Guide
- The A2X Ecommerce Accounting Hub
The No-Brainer Step That Will Save Your Accounts
If you’re new to selling online and just getting started, your accounts may feel like one small check on a long to-do list.
But they are crucial to get right, and there is one app that will make life a whole lot easier right from the start.
When you receive bank deposits from Etsy, you will also get a settlement statement breaking down what transactions are accounted for in that deposit. This helps you reconcile your books.
The problem with these statements, however, is that not enough detail is included and they often span months. This leaves manual calculations for you to do in order to figure out exactly how much you paid in fees, what fees they were, what you paid in shipping, collected in sales tax, received in reimbursements, and more.
That might be manageable for a handful of transactions, but many more and you’ll find yourself not only pulling out hair but short on time to spend elsewhere on your business.
That’s where A2X for Etsy comes in.
A2X integrates with your Etsy store and accounting software, and splits out each of your bank deposits into journal summaries, detailing all the information you need to know about your income and expenses.
If statements span months, A2X separates these and organizes books via the accrual method for easier and more accurate forecasting.
“A2X for Etsy has made accounting reconciliation easy and accurate, giving us the confidence to make faster and more informed business decisions. A must for any business looking to make Etsy a key sales channel.”
- Ben Aronsten, Mojostand.
Sell on Etsy: FAQs
Quick answers to your burning questions about how to sell on Etsy.
How do you sell on Etsy?
As long as your items are handmade, vintage, or craft supplies, you can sell on Etsy. To start a store, you need to have decided what to sell and have access to the internet. Head to Etsy.com (or your local Etsy marketplace), and scroll to the bottom of the page to select Sell on Etsy.
You’ll need to add your business and personal information, store name and details, list at least one item, and set up your bank accounts in order to activate your store. Check out our blog on how to open an Etsy seller account here for step-by-step instructions.
How much does it cost to sell on Etsy?
The Etsy listing fee is 20c. Your orders may then be subject to a 5% transaction fee, advertising fees, in-person selling fees, payment processing fees, delivery fees, regulatory operating fees, Pattern fees, and currency conversion where applicable.
There are also subscription fees if you choose to upgrade to Etsy Plus. Find out more about Etsy fees here.
How do beginners sell on Etsy?
Anyone can start selling on Etsy at any time. Head to your local Etsy marketplace - Etsy.com for US sellers - scroll to the bottom of the page to click Sell on Etsy.
You’ll then be taken through the sign-up process and you’ll need to list at least one item to successfully complete this. Head to our blog on setting up your account here for help.
Do you need a license to sell on Etsy?
No, you do not need a license to sell on Etsy.
How do you sell jewelry on Etsy?
If your jewelry is vintage or hand-made, you can sell it on Etsy. Choose the Jewelry category when you open your store and make sure you have researched some keywords to include in your title and descriptions to stand out from competitors.
How do you sell shirts on Etsy?
In order to sell shirts on Etsy, you’ll need to ensure these are made by you. You’ll then need to select the category most relevant to your shirts when you open your store: Boys’ Clothing, Girls’ Clothing, Mens’ Clothing, Women’s Clothing, Unisex Kids’ Clothing.
How do you sell vintage items on Etsy?
Vintage items on Etsy must be at least 20 years old. When you create a listing, you will be asked to select whether it is a hand-made, craft supply, or vintage item. Select Vintage before proceeding and list as normal. You can find listing instructions and tips in this blog.
How do you sell clothes on Etsy?
To sell clothes on Etsy, you will need to open an Etsy store and choose the most appropriate clothing category for your item/s when listing. Your options are: Boy’s Clothing, Girl’s Clothing, Men’s Clothing, Women’s Clothing, Unisex Kids’ Clothing.
How do you sell art on Etsy?
In order to sell art on Etsy, you’ll first need to open an Etsy store. List an item as normal, selecting the most appropriate subcategory from within the Art & Collectibles section: Artist trading cards, Collectibles, Dolls & miniatures, Drawing & illustration, Fibre arts, Fine art ceramics, Glass art, Mixed media & collage, Painting, Photography, Prints, Sculpture.
How do you sell greeting cards on Etsy?
To start selling greeting cards on Etsy, first open your store. List your item and select Greeting Cards as the category. There are subcategories within this, so if your cards match one of these, ensure you select that too for the most targeted traffic.
How do you sell crafts on Etsy?
You can sell just about any craft on Etsy, as long as you have made it either entirely yourself, or in partnership with a supplier that you name when you list your item. The first step is to open your store, and then to select the Handmade option, before choosing your categories and subcategories most relevant to your product.
How do you sell mugs on Etsy?
To sell mugs on Etsy, you’ll need to open your store, and during the listing process, select the categories/subcategories: Kitchen & Dining > Drink & Barware > Drinkware > Mugs.
How do you sell photos on Etsy?
To sell your photos on Etsy, first create your store. When you list your item, you’ll want to select the Art & Collectibles category, followed by Photography. You can also categorize by Black & White, Color, and Sepia.
In our Etsy SEO guide, we discuss how Etsy recommends that any titles of art items are still dictated by keywords for search purposes and that the names of your photos or pieces should go in your listing description.
How do you sell candles on Etsy?
To sell candles on Etsy, open your Etsy store and then select Home Decor > Candles & Holders as your category.
How do you sell on Etsy without a credit card?
You can’t sell on Etsy without a credit card. You’ll need this to open your shop, and you’ll need to verify your account in order to start selling.
How do you sell on Etsy without PayPal?
Etsy gives you multiple payment options besides PayPal. Etsy Payments is the integrated method, but there’s also Apple Pay, Google Pay, bank transfer in some cases, and credit and debit cards.
Also on the blog
- Good Etsy Shop Names and How to Find Yours
- Etsy Business Plan Template
- Etsy SEO
- Etsy Accounting Guide
- Etsy Integration Guide: Simplify Your Business
- The A2X Ecommerce Accounting Hub
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