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Thursday, July 17, 2014

Boutique Basics: Selling on Etsy

We see a lot of posts in our Facebook group asking for help in establishing or enhancing Etsy stores. We thought this would be a great topic for the next entry in our “Boutiques Basics” series! Click on the links to access the previous Boutique Basic posts if you want to catch up:

·         How to Price Products
·         How to Tag
·         Product Packaging

Etsy is very affordable to use as a platform for selling your products. There is no membership fee. You pay $0.20 for each listing per 4 months. Once you sell, Etsy takes a 3.5% transaction fee on the item's sale price.

So, let’s start at the very beginning- a very good place to start (anyone get that reference? Lol). Opening an Etsy store is not nearly as difficult as one would think! They really have it laid out well and walk you step-by-step through the process. Here is a good basic tutorial with links that will help you:


You need a shop name- something catchy that is NOT already taken! That is a lot harder than one would think. It’s good not to pigeon hole yourself – think in broader terms just in case you want to expand your product later down the line. Try to keep spelling as simple and logical as possible so people can easily find you. 


This is a good place to state your turn around time. It’s at the top of your store where many people look. When writing your Item Description, make sure to refer them here to find the current turn around time.
Now you are ready to start listing your items. This is the MOST important part of selling (after creating great products, of course). There are a few major points: photos, SEO, and pricing.

First of all, let’s discuss the photos of your items. We all know how important first impressions are, and this is the first (and perhaps only) impression you give of your business. You don’t want to spend hours researching the perfect fabric and pattern, preparing, and creating, only to be passed up because of your photo. Basically, you need to make sure you have good lighting, a clutter-free background, a clear picture, multiple angles, and good editing. That’s right; you can’t just finish sewing, plop it on a hanger, and take 3 quick shots. This step takes planning and timing. If you are going to shoot your product on a model (a dress on a girl, for example), take time to get accessories, fix her hair, explain to her what you are going to be doing and what you expect from her (bribery works well here!!), and most of all, make sure she is having fun!! Trading with a photographer or using a boutique modeling agency is always an option, if you want live shots but don't feel comfortable putting your own child in such a worldwide setting. Don't forget to include a watermark- unfortunately boutique photos are stolen all too often.  We have a few blogs explaining the more technical aspects of photography, including lighting and setting. “How to Take Great Photos” can be found here, “Photography Tips and Tricks” can be found here, and “What Makes a Good Boutique Picture” can be found here.

Next, let’s get into SEO- search engine optimization. Some people have gorgeous work and amazing photos, but they don’t have a lot of sales, and they can’t figure out why! One reason could be because they are not being found. Etsy is a HUGE marketplace with thousands of people trying to sell exactly what you are selling. You need to make sure that when someone searches for a “3t Christmas dress,” your listing pops up near the top. And the way you do that is by utilizing key phrases in key locations to make that happen.  I could talk on this topic for days (former librarian here!), but for now I’ll give you a brief overview and a couple of great resources.
The first place to concentrate on is your Item Title. This is limited to a set number of characters. Here is where I see a lot of errors. People want to put “New beautiful handmade dress for spring!” That is waaaaaayyyyy too generic. You need to think like your target market. What are they going to enter into the search field? They usually have something specific in mind, so they are going to use specific words. You need to do the same- describe your item. Something like, “Red and green Christmas halter dress for girls sizes 6 months, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6” is not very appealing, but guess what?? It WORKS. You are smooshing as many key words as you can in one little box. People are going to search by occasion, by size, by colors, by style, etc, and you’ve just covered it all.

The Item Description can be a little more lyrical, but again, you need to use as many key words as you can. The first 160 characters are the most important, as Etsy pulls from here to create your meta description. That basically means that search engines look more closely through those words to find good matches for searches. It’s important to make sure you repeat the words you used in the Item Title here in the Item Description. This repetition makes you look even more qualified to search engines. So, using the example given above, I would probably say something like, “It’s Christmas time, and every girl needs a special handmade red and green dress. This halter dress, available in sizes 6 months, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6,” and then I would go on to describe the dress. See how I repeated all of the same key words, just in a more conversational fashion?

Also here is where I enter size information. It’s always best for customers to make sure they are getting the right size, and the best way for them to do that is to measure. I list finished measurements provided in the pattern here- chest, waist, length, inseam, etc. This helps the customer figure out the correct size and hopefully prevents those “It doesn’t fit” messages! And if it doesn’t fit- it’s not your fault- you did what you could.

At the end of every Item Description I added information about my garments. “The designer cotton fabric is prewashed and dried with earth friendly products to prevent shrinkage. Hand washing is best, but you can wash with cold water in the gentle cycle. Dry flat. All seams are serged and top stitched. All items are handmade by me in my smoke free and pet free home.
Each item is made when ordered, so please see shop announcement for current turnaround time.
Thank you for looking, and I look forward to doing business with you soon!”

The last thing I am going to discuss is tags. In the tag box, you are going to enter the exact words (or short phrases) your target market would enter in the search bar. You only have 13, so choose wisely!! Also, it’s important not to use the same 13 words every time- switch it up to gain more customers. In my previous example, I would use Christmas, dress, halter, girls clothing, outfit, 6 months, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 (all together as one term), red and green, Christmas dress, toddler Christmas, holiday, clothing, baby girl dress. Or something to those effects. Honestly, when I was selling, I would think of how I would search for that dress. For example, if I were a customer, I would search “Christmas dress.” So, I searched using those terms, and then I looked at the tags of the first 15 or so items that popped up. Find the tags they have in common, or ones that would work for your listing, and go from there!

Here are a couple of great resources on SEOs:

Whether you are selling on Etsy, Facebook, or just through friends, DO NOT START UNTIL YOU ARE PAID!! Don’t start sewing, don’t order fabrics, don’t put them in your schedule. On Etsy you can choose to be paid through direct checkout, PayPal, and/or check or money order. I personally left all 3 as options to bring in more buyers. However, I put in my shop policies that I would not start on an item until the echeck has cleared. 

You need to create, or have created for you, a shop banner and avatar. I personally paid someone to do this- there are Etsy shops set up for graphic designers to sell these items. You need something professional and cohesive. I also used this image as part of my business card.

Unfortunately, shop policies are often overlooked, but this is a VERY important part of your business. Here you can lay out your position on many things so that if there is ever a question, the information was provided in black and white before the purchase was made.

Payment Policy: Obviously this is where you spell out what forms of payment you take. I also explained how customers can use Paypal without an account. Here is also where I stated that items paid by check or money order would not be started until the payment cleared. 

Shipping Policy: Here is where you spell out what type of shipping you use. For example, “Most orders are shipped via USPS First Class Mail with delivery confirmation which usually arrives within 2-5 days, U.S. orders only, holidays not included. I am NOT responsible for packages that are lost, stolen or delayed if you have not contacted me to purchase shipping insurance prior to paying.

I ship to the address listed on your PayPal account so please make sure your shipping address on your PayPal account is correct before placing an order. Your order may be delayed if your account address is different. I cannot be held responsible if your order has been shipped to the wrong address due to your PayPal address being incorrect.

International buyers- please be aware that there are quite often custom fees and taxes; you are solely responsible for these charges.
RUSH ORDERS: Please contact me PRIOR to purchase if you require a rush order. A custom listing will be setup to include all rush fees. The custom listing will include the requested need date, and orders will be shipped in time to be delivered ON the requested need date. Please note that I am not responsible for USPS mail delays.

Refund Policy: Here is where you need to think long and hard. There is no right or wrong policy, and honestly I worked with my (few) customers who brought up a refund. But this is what I stated in mine: “You are a valued customer at CocosCuteCreations, and I want you to be happy with your purchase. If for some reason you are not satisfied, please let me know, and I will work with you to find a solution. There are no refunds or exchanges with personalized or custom items unless there is a defect or a mistake made on my part.
Return requests are accepted within 3 days of delivered shipment. I will not take return requests after this time. Items must be returned within 5 days of request and must arrive in the same condition in which they were received. I will refund the cost of the item minus shipping charges. Return shipping is the responsibility of the customer. 

If there is a defect or mistake on my part, I will pay for you to ship it back and refund you 100% or send you a correct item, based on your preference.”
Additional Information: This is where I explained how to correctly measure different body parts for the correct fit.


As with selling boutique clothing anywhere, make sure you are legally compliant. You can start at You can also find a helpful overview of resources at (pdf).  Here is information for being compliant with children's products: And finally, here's a great Etsy team to join to help you learn more about these topics:

Once you have everything set up, it’s time to sell!! There are things you can do to help gain customers. First of all, the more items you have listed, the more ways there are for people to find you! Often times customers don’t purchase the outfit that brought them into your store. The more listings you have, the more searches you pop up in, so give yourself a fighting change by offering as many items as you can. In the beginning I would take the profit I made from one transaction to purchase fabric for the next listing. 

Secondly- be patient! Yes, you want to have great sales and offer many items, but both of these take time. I read somewhere that a successful business usually takes a year before it starts making money! Hopefully it won’t take this long, but it is a long process when you are using any income to build your store. The good news is that hopefully you are sewing because you love it, so you’re still having fun through this period!!

When listing new items or renewing items, timing is important. At the bottom of the Etsy homepage there is a constantly changing "Recently Listed Items" banner. Customer are able to look at more recent listings by clicking the "see more" button. Spread your listings out to increase your chances of being seen by different people here. Also try to list items during peak shopping times- generally early morning, around lunchtime, and after the kids are in bed.
We discussed earlier how important SEOs are for being found and being in the top of the searches. Another way to be at the top of searches is to renew your listings. It seems that the newer an item is, the higher up in the Etsy search result it is placed. This is great when you are selling, as you renew an item once it’s purchased. If you are not selling, it can be a good idea to renew listings yourself just to keep them more relevant according to Etsy.
Now that you are up and running, you need to market! You can market through Etsy using Teams. Join a few teams and become active with them! Often times people who make handmade also buy handmade, or they know lots of people who do. Make a Facebook page for your business- we have a blog coming soon about that. Utilize Twitter; get a blog; use Instagram and GooglePlus. You can also go to local craft fairs, boutiques, etc.
Finally, give OUTSTANDING customer service. Always. Be quick to answer, flexible, and understanding. Be professional at all times- proofread what you write and be as nice as you can be, even when customers are not.


Q #1: How do you get a buyer to leave positive feedback?
Well, you can’t make a buyer do this, but there are ways to suggest it. Some new buyers don’t realize that leaving feedback is an option, while other buyers just don’t take the time to do it.  Under Info&Appearance, there is a place to leave a Message to Buyers. This is sent to them directly after they make the purchase. Here I would reiterate my current turn around time. I would also thank the customer for their purchase, and state that if they enjoy their item, I always appreciate positive feedback! Another great place to suggest positive feedback is in your thank you card. I sent a personal thank you card and business cards with each item. I would follow up on any conversations we had about this order, thank them, and again ask for positive feedback if they enjoy their item.  

Q#2: How do you figure shipping on an Item of unknown weight. What about shipping multiple items. How can you figure that cost?

I personally shipped items in a polymailer with first class as a default. Poly mailers are pretty inexpensive and water and puncture resistant- you can find good deals on EBay. In this manner a shipping scale is a MUST! Make your sample, and package it up. Stick it on the scale to see how much it weighs. Then go to the USPS Web site to figure cost of shipping! I usually give a half price discount for each item after one. So if one is going to cost $5 to ship, I charge $2-3 for each item after that. Not the most technical way, but it worked for me! Mailing this way enables you to keep the price of shipping down for your customer.
Other people only ship with Flat Rate poly bubble mailers. These are free to you- just order them online from, and the post office will deliver them to you. This is a little more expensive for your customer, but there is no guess work at the shipping cost!

Q#3: How do you do coupon codes? Like if you want to give a good customer a one time 20% off discount. How does that work?

Here’s a great article on that!

Hope you enjoyed this installment in Boutique Basics!! If you have any questions on selling through Etsy, please don't hesitate to email us

Happy sewing (and selling!!)


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