Have a Well Fleshed-out Store
Part 1: Fill out All Fields
Include a banner, a bio, a store announcement, a location (more important than most realize), good descriptions with measurements and product details, photos that provide multiple views when appropriate. Calculate the shipping costs accurately and include these in each listing. If you sell internationally take the time to include shipping to each country. Creating shipping profile can help streamline the process.
These are all things that make you look professional and stable to new buyers. They also provide the necessary info for a buyer to make a purchasing decision. If a buyer doesn't have important info such as size or materials they are much more likely to just move on to someone else than to take the time to write you. Don't rely on the customer to contact you for the shipping cost because they won't.
Part 2: Consider Posting Store Policies
This is something many people overlook. You'll be surprised at how often those unexpected circumstances arise, the kind that cause a lot of stress and could've easily been prevented if policies were stated. Things to consider:
- What happens when you send a package and the buyer claims it was not received?
Do you refund the shipping? Do you take a big loss and send another item for free? Do you state that buyers are responsible for requesting insurance? Do you state that lost packages need to be addressed with the post office?
- What happens when a buyer decides they want to return an item? What if it's because they changed their mind? Or what if it's 3 months after they bought it? What if it's a custom item? Do you accept returns? Are there limitations for time or quality? Who pays the return shipping? What if you never receive the item and the buyer claims they sent it back?
- What happens when a buyer claims an item was received damaged?
Do you ask for proof? Do you state they should have purchased insurance? Do you eat the cost and send another? Who pays for shipping of the new item? What if you can't replace the item (one of a kind)?
Descriptions don't have to be long, but include a sense of personality or a human touch. People enjoy handmade items because of the connection with the artist/crafter. A description that reads like a clinical list of ingredients doesn't create a connection. A short line or two sharing your inspiration for the piece, or perhaps what you like about it, or perhaps just a conversational tone can do a lot to add a personal feel.
Think about why items get flagged. Your descriptions should let buyers know that you make your items yourself.
When you are writing descriptions DO NOT COPY SOMEONE ELSE'S LANGUAGE, NAMING STYLE, LISTING FORMAT, ETC. Using the same creative style or format and changing a few words is STILL COPYING. Copying someone else's description does not mean their success will translate to your success. Personal means a reflection of YOU, not other sellers. Find your own way to present your listings and find a way to stand out by doing something different than your competitors.
- It is better to spread out listings over the course of a week/month, listing just a few items at a time. Listing all items at once on the same day reduces your exposure on the category pages.
- The default view for category pages is by recently listed. Things can move fast so items listed on Monday can appear on page 10 by Tuesday. If you list all 8 items at once on Monday that means all of your items are now pushed to page 10 and later, making it harder to find you. Whereas if you list 2 items on Monday, 2 on Wednesday, 2 on Friday... you are continually offering fresh listings for people to find you.
- However, keep in mind that listing exposure is ONLY ONE SMALL WAY for buyers to find you. Promotion is very, very important, as I'll explain below. Sellers who rely entirely on listing exposure are not likely to be successful on Etsy.
It is very important that you post in the correct category. Put yourself in the shopper's place and imagine where you would first look to find a similar product. Posting in a completely different category does not help you stand out. For example: someone may post jewelry in the books category thinking that they'll get more sales with less competition. In reality, that just means even fewer people will find their items -- people interested in jewelry go to the jewelry category -- and people interested in books are annoyed at the invasion and ignore the listing.
Use Your Tags
This is particularly important when listing on Etsy. Tags will not only determine your positioning in subcategories, but also the descriptive words used to search for your items. Again, think like a buyer and choose words/subcategories that a buyer is most likely to browse.
Check out the subcategories listed in your appropriate category and base your tag words on the relevant ones. Use all your tags (you have up to 13) and include words that are descriptive enough for users to find you. Color, size, style, kind of item are all important. See here for a suggestion on choosing tags: http://www.etsy.com/forums_topic.php?thread_id=23040
I also suggest you do a forum search for the word "tag" to find the latest info.
Good Photos, Good Thumbnails
Photos are the buyer's main access to your product online. They can't pick it up, try it on, smell it, examine it. So your photos need to provide enough information to fulfill those needs. Take good quality, clear photos.
- There are a TON of tips available on improving photos, resources, tricks, etc. See the Photographs section of the wiki. See also the Photo section member guide thread: http://www.etsy.com/forums_topic.php?thread_id=11644
- If photography is not familiar to you now, take the time to learn about it and gradually improve your skills over time. Investigate ways to make an impact in both presentation and lighting. If you need hands-on help, get tutoring or assistance from a photography student or professional. Offer a barter arrangement if you aren't in a position to pay them.
- Use your thumbnail photo well. You need to create an image that is interesting enough to entice a click / view. The first image in your listing is used to create the thumbnail. The thumbnail images are 75x75 pixels (square, cropped from the center of the image). You need an image and composition that will work well at that small size, be clear enough to distinguish the item and make someone want to learn more.
Have a Unique & Quality Product
If your product is common and can't be distinguished from most others like it, you are less likely to make an impact on a buyer. Think of ways to add your own twist or flavor to a product. Look for ways to improve the design or construction. Find new and alternate uses for an item.
If you feel like you need inspiration, try changing your habits. See a different kind of movie, listen to a different kind of music, pick up a new magazine. Looking at other designers, indie or famous, can also be helpful in allowing you to branch out and try something new.
...OK, THOSE ALL SET THE GROUND WORK, WHICH LEADS TO THE MOST IMPORTANT ASPECT:
PROMOTE, PROMOTE, PROMOTE
Make a serious effort to promote on sites other than Etsy. Forum promotion is not enough, since not all Etsy members visit the forums. Successful sellers advertise, market and promote frequently and consistently in all areas. They don't rely on Etsy alone and they don't rely on listing frequently as their only means of exposure.
- Friends, family and co-workers can be a good place to start. Word-of-mouth is powerful on the web. However, don't limit your marketing to your circle of familiar friends. Continue to network online and offline. If marketing and promotion are new to you, check out some basic books from the library or bookstore. You can also enlist the help of a mentor or your fellow sellers.
- There is a long list of free places to advertise here, see the last post for the comprehensive list: http://www.etsy.com/forums_topic.php?thread_id=4505&page_id=9
- HOW you promote is just as important as WHERE. It's not enough to just post a picture or a link for your item on MySpace. You need to think about the angle to approach people -- what message will best reach your buyers and how to deliver it. Are you promoting with a sale? Getting attention with a catchy image or headline? Trying to reach new kinds of buyers? Trying to reach those in your comfortable existing market? Doing a hard sell or seeding? Seeking just online shoppers or looking to bring offline customers to your store? Focusing on bringing in a large number of new customers to build a customer base? Focusing on retaining existing customers?
Think about what your goal is, who you are trying to reach, how to reach them, and how to differentiate yourself from similar products. Find out what makes your product and your service unique or beneficial.