Hey makers, Kelly here back with another Tip Tuesday!
So, you knit and perhaps love to crochet. You've made beautiful cozy accessories for your friends, co-workers, even your sister's new baby. Your mom doesn't have room left in her closet for any more of your carefully, handcrafted scarves. What's a maker to do?
Then someone suggests it: "Hey...why don't you sell your knits?"
Maybe you accept $20 from that nice friend who refuses to let you give away your handmade work for free. Or you start a Facebook page to easily share your newest projects, and people start offering to buy them. Maybe you set up a table at a small, free event to showcase your work, and strangers are actually interested. Because when you hit that moment when your hobby has the potential to become much more than that, it's a beautiful feeling. But then comes the question: Should I open an Etsy shop?
Sarah, owner of Mama Knows Clips and Crochet / Mama Knows Luxury, is making her Etsy shop experience a successful one and has gained great small business knowledge - I'm honored to call her a maker friend and a guest for this week's Tip Tuesday with tips for Etsy sales guidance, fees and shop benefits.
Ready to learn all things Etsy with Sarah to see if opening a shop on the platform is for you? Ok, let’s go!
Hi everyone, I'm Sarah of Mama Knows Clips and Crochet where I make knit and crochet accessories! I also offer big stitch merino yarn and locally handmade giant yarn tools to the community through Mama Knows Luxury. I often see fellow vendors asking for advice on how to start their own Etsy Shop. The barriers for why most actually don't: a reluctance to pay fees perceived as high, worry about online traffic, and curiousity about the success of fellow vendors. I often share advice and chat with my vendor friends about these topics because it’s no secret - I am a huge fan of Etsy. I have two shops and have slowly but surely soaked up a ton of valuable tips and tactics. The result? Every month my shops get a little better, a little stronger, and my traffic and sales have grown at a fairly steady pace for the past two years.
So let's talk tips: I first recommend the Etsy Seller Handbook! Here's the Canadian and American versions.
Etsy fees can be a barrier for people, and I totally get it. Here's my tip-takeaway:
Take your overall sales through all of your sales venues (social media, craft sales, consignment, etc) into consideration. On average most people will find costs that can fall into the “selling fees” category will probably work out to an average of anywhere from 8-20% (of course this will vary greatly for each individual, but it’s a good broad estimate). Skeptical? Start doing some hard comparisons on your own. For example, do you sell at craft sales? Look at your table and booth fees and parking costs for your events and figure out what the average percentage of your gross sales works out to. I did one large, three medium, and two small craft sales this year. My average was 12% of gross sales. At my largest sale my booth fee and parking costs worked out to 9% of my gross sales. This is before other softer costs like lunch, paying staff, time away from my family, etc.
Another note on soft costs: many makers may opt to sell through Facebook Page messaging and accepting payment by cash or EMT where the cost can be zero. I totally get that it’s hard to jump from completely “free” sales on Facebook to Etsy fees, but the epiphany for me was understanding that time is valuable. I spent several weeks adding up the minutes and hours spent messaging back and forth with customers, assigned that time a fair wage, and calculated it as a percentage of my total closed and paid Facebook sales. My best week cost me 10% of my Gross Sales in ‘wages’, my worst was an 8% loss.
Our time is so valuable and it's important to equate personal time as an actual cost. When I started doing that, I also began strategically allocating how I spent my time. Factor in listing fees, sales commission, and payment processing (Direct Checkout or Paypal) and the average cost per sale on Etsy totals around 7-8%. Analyze your business this way too and Etsy costs and benefits may begin to look a lot more reasonable.
Sales Analytics – In my opinion, the Etsy Stats platform is rather phenomenal. You can use the information to track every single view in your Etsy shop, including internal and external sources, listing and tag performance, as well as listing views and clicks. This info allows you to coordinate and align between your better performing listing and tags with your weaker ones. You can also test the market with various tags, titles, photos, etc. for similar products simultaneously.
Built In Shipping – For Canadian Etsy Sellers, Canada Post shipping is built into the platform with great rates. I have a corporate shipping account directly through Canada Post and the Etsy rates beat that account every time. You can estimate shipping directly within Etsy and when you make a sale you can easily print your label at home, take your prepped item to the post office, plunk it on the counter, smile at the friendly post worker and say, “All Set!”. I really love this option! I believe U.S. Etsy Sellers have an extremely similar platform with US Postal Service as well. Etsy accumulates the shipping fees incurred and bills once a month. I personally like to go in once a week and pay my outstanding balance from my shop payment account so as not to rack up shipping fee bills.
Sophisticated SEO and Traffic – Etsy has invested time and money in perfecting its algorithms. Focus on being Etsy-compatible with the algorithms so your listings show up consistently and often. Etsy has millions to possibly billions of people shopping via its platform daily. So as a maker, you give yourself great access to people (and potential customers) who might not find you and your beautiful handmade otherwise.
External SEO Strength – Have you ever noticed that when you search for an item on Google, the top of the search has several buyable listings? Have you noticed that they are almost always from Amazon, Ebay, Etsy and then large chain stores who specialize in the item you are searching for? Etsy is large enough to compute in the large external algorithms, and this will give your shop even more opportunities for traffic you could likely never have reached on your own.
Etsy Quick Sale – This is one of my favorite things about Etsy: cha-ching you have a sale! No warning, no endless conversations, no answering the same questions over and over again. Suddenly your time does not factor in as a selling cost the way it did on other types of sales. You can learn how to set up your listings so an informed buyer who has done their research can get all the info they need just by looking at your listing.
Etsy Conversation – For clients who aren’t ready to just buy, Etsy makes it easy for them to send you a message and ask any questions, much like they can on Facebook. The difference is that they will have had the opportunity to read your listing first which may answer a lot of their questions on the front end. You still get the opportunity to let your customer service shine and to be the listing point of contact for your potential handmade clientele.
Etsy Help – In my expereince, Etsy has a support team of fantastic real people who actually respond when you need help. Their handbook is extensive, their forums are strong and active, and they have an array of Facebook groups dedicated to Etsy Sellers where you can find a massive wealth of helpful info to up your Etsy game.
Sarah and I hope you found this helpful as you decide if Etsy is the place for you! We'll have another Tip Tuesday soon with advice on Etsy golden rules, shop setup tips and tricks, and refreshing/updating/improving your existing Etsy shop, Be sure to share any of your tips with us on our Instagram and #ourmakerlife
Happy making and selling!
Kelly, OML Dream Team
Sarah is the maker behind @mamaknowsclipsandcrochet and the force behind Mama Knows Luxury, bringing big stitch merino yarn to the masses and to Canadians in particular. Sarah loves to share her knowledge, and and often finds herself explaining how she "did it" or demonstrating a stitch to her friends. She believes that being a part of the creative community is both an honour and a privilege, and takes at least a little time each day to immerse herself in the creative process.
Kelly is the mind, body and soul behind Knitbrooks: handmade modern knitwear inspired by nature’s endless beauty. After completing a photojournalism program, Kelly used both knitting and crocheting as a way to relax after a long day working as a reporter/photographer. This hobby has since transformed into a way to combine her love of creating fashionable knitwear, with her passion for photography, a cozy lifestyle, and her awe and admiration of the untouched wilderness.