Frequently Asked Etsy

These are the things we get asked lots in the Etsy UK Sellers Social Group.

Disclaimer: I’m not a legal or financial professional, so do your own research and diligence before acting on my advice. In short, don’t take business advice from a stranger on the internet. Treat this article as a guide or map to help you find the right answers rather than these being the definitive answers themselves.

This article contains occasional swearing and rudeness.

STARTING OUT

What do I need to do before I Open a shop?

Get a basic understanding of how Etsy search works, how to compose a listing, how to take reasonable photographs, what sells on the platform, what you’re going to sell on the platform, how you’re going to fulfil orders, and how much you’re going to charge.

How do I open a shop?

Click this link and get 40 free listings (it also gives me 40 free listings). Fill out the forms.

Can I open multiple shops?

Yes, though you can’t sell the same category in multiple shops, though this becomes a grey area when you have the same category of item targeting different markets with different designs. So you could have one shop selling t-shirts and another selling candles. Etsy have guidelines on on running multiple shops. But I recommend that you start slow, with a single shop.

Should I open a second shop or put experimental new products in my main shop?

How long is a piece of string? I’d probably start in a single shop and then split them out.

My shop is terrible and I want to abandon it – what do I do next?

Try to fix it, as much for the transferable skills that will serve you well on your next project. Otherwise, I’ll assume you’re able to make fully informed, rational, adult decisions, so sayonara. Use google to find a link to Etsy’s own instructions on how to shut down your shop.

Do I need to bother with ‘about me’ etc?

Yes. It actually contributes to search rank. It’s also worth building your brand from the start. Your banner should be 3360 x 840px. Use google to find Etsy’s own articles on setting up your shop, they’re really good.

Should I pay £600 to attend a big name fair?

Probably not in your early days. I’d start small with school fairs, one day events and then move up to the bigger ones. The sales people for these fairs and trade shows are always very complimentary about your products, but remember that you are the customer, and the product they’re ‘selling’ to you is potential footfall. Also, £600 is only the start. You often have to pay for shell schemes, electrical, not being situated outside the toilets, wifi, the air that you breathe….

 

PRODUCT QUESTIONS

What products should I sell?

Products that already have a customer base on Etsy and a reasonable profit margin and you have the skills for.

How many products do I need to open a shop?

One. But I’d recommend having 24 (a full front page). Failing that, multiples of 3 look better in the store layout, so 9,12,15 are reasonable early targets to shoot for.

Can I sell services instead of products?

Yes, many people do sell SEO, listing, web design, photography and training services.

Do I need CE certification? How do I get it?

Go to google, and type “do I need CE certification”, find the most official source, read it.

EDIT: it’s been brought to my attention that google results for CE are less than reliable. This website has been suggested instead: https://www.cemarking-handmadetoys.co.uk/ – thanks Leanne

Can I design products and get someone else to make then?

Yes, look into Production Partnerships, it’s pretty straightforward. You have to tell Etsy who your production partner is, but you can use a generic name on the public bit of your Etsy shop so people don’t ‘steal’ your suppliers (but I recommend you don’t worry about this at all – everyone else has their own problems to deal with)

Can I sell vintage clothing / furniture / decorations?

Yes.

Can I sell stuff I buy off Alibaba to sell in my Etsy shop?

Some things, yes, though Etsy may make you list this in their craft supplies section. Buying things ready made and sraight up reselling is generally disallowed.

Can I sell stuff (on Etsy) that I buy off other Etsy sellers?

No. Not as your main product anyway. If you buy packaging or craft supplies off other Etsy sellers you can use these alongside your own products, but no direct reselling.

Can I sell in bulk / wholesale?

Yes. Etsy do have a wholesale feature to their site, but it requires you to sign up for separately and part of that is converting your selling currency to USD (if you’re not selling in USD already). But you don’t have to use this wholesale feature, you can list on places such as Facebook wholesale selling groups such as this one I set up for UK wholesalers: https://www.facebook.com/groups/437458746622373/

Just be careful not to move a transaction outside of Etsy if the initial approach was through Etsy (for wholesale).

Can I dropship? (get someone else to fulfil the order that I sell)

No. Not on Etsy.

Can I get someone else to sell for me and I fulfil the order? (dropshippping)

This way round, yes, but they’d have to sell somewhere else like Amazon or eBay. They won’t be able to sell/front your products on Etsy whilst you also have a shop there.

Is my item too cheap / expensive?

Firstly, calculate what it actually truly costs. This should be materials plus labour (which I recommend you price out at minimum wage or living wage – whatever you’d pay your first employee) plus overheads like electric, rent, wear and tear on tools etc. For overheads, calculate how much you need to cover for your workshop (e.g. quarter of your household bills and divide by the number of products you think you can make at full pace if you were doing this full time. For example, if I needed to find £250 in bills and rent, and thought I could ship 2000 cards a month then that’s 12.5p per card in overheads. Don’t worry, it’s fine just to make an approximation early on. Also include any labour to package and deliver, even if this is pennies (it all adds up) plus a small marketing cost. Add all of these small costs in – they may be meaningless at small volumes but they count when you scale up.

For your selling prices, now take the true cost price and double it for wholesale selling price, trebble it for web retail price and quadruple it for brick and mortar retail price. These are generic, rule of thumb multipliers, but they’re an ok starting point.

Now that you have your starting point prices, compare against the competition and adjust. If you’re significantly different, then consider whether you can use cheaper or more expensive materials, whether you can outsource, or whether you simply have a different product that deserves to be at a different price point and whether that’s part of your strategy.

Note that some product categories ignore these multiplier conventions completely. My greetings cards for example cost about £0.80 to produce and I sell them for £2.50, whilst others make cards that cost £2-£3 and only sell them for £4.

Can I offer customisations under separate ‘add on’ listings?

No, it has to be as a listing variation. Same with ‘rush order’ fees.

How do I create a custom order?

Get someone to start a conversation with you (“ask me a question” button) and then click the link to turn it into a custom order.

SALES, FULFILMENT, SERVICE

When can a customer leave a review?

Usually after they should have received it (shipping time + prep time.)

Can I do a partial refund?

Yes, but only from the desktop client, not the mobile app.

Can a customer leave a review after an order is cancelled?

Yes, but only for about 48 hours whilst the cancelation goes through and only if the date when they would have received it has passed.

How do I get more reviews?

Average review rate is 20% (1 in 5) so if you’re close to this then chill. If not, then consider tasteful ways that aren’t passive aggressive begging or outright harassment.

Do I have to include a packing slip with my order?

No, one is emailed, but many people (me included) like to include one anyway. Tip, I use the print dialog to scale these down to A5 size and cut up a ream of A4 at a time to save a little paper, but you could do without.

How long does it take for a parcel to get from UK to US?

About 7-10 days to land in the US, plus customs, plus local shipping. It can easily be 3 weeks or more.

Someone approached me for charity freebies – what should I do?

Ignore them. Or point them to Etsy TOS saying no canvassing.

Somebody wants to pay me only when they’ve seen the custom design that will take me 5 hours to do. Should I?

Ha ha ha….fuck no. Charge a design fee with a defined number of iterations.

An instagrammer/youtuber wants freebies to help promote their brand – should I do it?

No in 99% of cases. Occasionally you get a good one. But the successful youtubers/instagrammers can afford to buy. Instead, make them buy it at full price, and if you get featured send them a nice thank you and maybe a couple of freebies afterwards.

Someone approached me about selling on another website. Is this legit?

Maybe. The main rule for making it rich in this day and age seems to be “be the middle man.” So lots of people decided to set up marketplaces. Most of them are shit. Some are ok. Give them a whirl if you want to, but be careful with your brand.

Somebody gave me poor feedback. What should I do?

Did you deserve it? If yes then learn from this. If no, then life sucks, get used to it. If you need to put a product issue right then mail your customer asap and swap it or refund it and hope they change their review. If you’re not sure what they’re on about, ask them nicely, and hope they change their review. Do not respond publicly until you’re calm. When you do respond, don’t write it to the person who gave negative feedback, write it for the benefit of all the new customers who will check out your feedback scores before buying and think “what an amazingly tolerant and helpful person – I’ll give them my money” rather than “what a whiney, defensive person who can’t take criticism”

Customer was an absolute arse, totally unreasonable and left me terrible feedback because they have the IQ of a goldfish. What do I do?

Unfortunately, not a lot. Etsy will suggest you ‘find a way to communicate with your customer and ask them whats wrong’ when we clearly know that ‘what’s wrong’ is that the customer was an entitled halfwit who can’t read basic instructions and was expecting the moon on a stick, for free, to be delivered yesterday. Wait several weeks (until you’re able to be philosophical about it) and then write a lovely response showing off how tolerant and lovely you are, empathising with their disappointment and pointing out that the product was as described. Use lots of smileys, x’s and hearts. This seems to let you get away with saying whatever you want.

Tip: don’t write “if you could fucking read, you know what everyone else understands which is that airmail to the other side of the fucking world isn’t fucking instant” as it makes you look like you have anger issues. Apparently.

What printer should I get?

Most modern inkjet and lasers will produce high enough quality prints given the right media and digital input quality, but it varies. If your printer is going to be running for 8 hours a day (or more), then an entry level printer may not cut it for very long. More expensive printers tend to have more serviceable/replaceable parts and are designed for higher duty cycles. But speak to a specialised printer retailer, you won’t get specialised help from a high street computer/electronics shop.

How do I share stock levels between Etsy, Ebay, Amazon and my Shopify shop?

There are some integrated fulfilment software providers such as stitch labs, Zoho Inventory and a few others. These keep the ‘master’ inventory and order queue and then exchange data between the shops.

How do I update multiple listings at once?

GetVela.com – here’s a post by Jen of Fairy Fountain Gifts: https://fairyfountaingiftshop.wordpress.com/2017/03/09/bulk-edit-your-etsy-listings-with-vela/

COPYRIGHT

Can I copy Disney/Marvel/DC/other?

No. Speak to a legal professional.

Everyone else does!

Then they have either a licence or a callous disregard for other people’s IP and are willing to roll the dice on getting caught and fined. Which does happen. Even to small traders. Speak to a legal professional.

What about ‘fan art’?

If it’s to hang on your own office wall and only you will ever see it, then there’s not really much they can do to stop you. If it’s to sell, then no. If it’s not to sell directly but is to promote your other non-copyright infringing products then probably not, but check with a legal professional.

What about ‘fair use’?

If you’re making a critique video of why spiderman is better than hulk then that’s kinda what fair use is for (though I’m not a copyright professional so speak to one before you take copyright advice from me).

What about if I change 23.8% of the image?

If it’s still recognisable, then it’s still copyrighted. Percentage is irrelevant.

What about some really clever loophole some stranger on an internet forum said I could use?

Ask them if they’ll put their house up as a security in case you get prosecuted. They won’t? Oh, you do surprise me.

I heard that a prop maker was able to sell some replica props on a forum without a license and Lucasarts/Disney said it was ok?

Not exactly. Lucasarts (now owned by Disney) had and probably still have a reasonable relationship with its fanbase and would occasionally turn a blind eye to a fan who made a replica of a Star Wars prop and then sold a couple of them to other members of that same community to help defray costs. But the moment one of them opened an online store and started selling to the public, the Cease & Desist letters would soon follow. File this one under ‘sensible community management’ rather than ‘backdoor IP licence”. People who tried to abuse this have been successfully prosecuted.

What does it matter if I ‘borrow’ from a faceless corporation? Let’s stick it to those corporate shills! Long live the people!

Who do you think those corporations hire to do their design work? Who do you think they hire to create spin off products?

They mostly hire independent artists and creators. So when you take their IP without asking or licensing to make your own products to sell to someone who really wants it, you’re actually taking from independents freelancing for a studio. Go you.

How do I get a license?

Ask the company that owns the IP, but I’ve heard that it’s pretty rigorous and some companies will insist you’ve been in business for a minimum length of time and have a minimum turnover already (to prove you’ll be able to responsibly work with their brand probably). These aren’t trivial. I’ve heard 3 years and $250,000 respectively for one of the bigger brands.

What about something I make which has been made with licensed materials?

Check the T&C of the product you bought whether it’s for commercial use. If so, then you’re probably fine, but if you’re in any doubt then consult a legal professional.

I want to use a product that has an ‘angel licence’ or ‘cottage licence’ – what is this?

It’s what the owner of a die or rubber stamp says can or cannot be done with their product for commercial purposes. There are some who think it’s a load of rubbish and others who treat it as gospel. Here’s a fairly balanced and nuanced article on the matter: http://wyvernscreations.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/angel-policy-confusion.html

Somebody approached me and said they own the copyright to a fairly generic phrase I used. What gives?

Firstly – are you sure this wasn’t already copyrighted? If not, then it’s possible you’ve been hit by a trend where people have started patent trolling their way through the english dictionary and buying up common phrases like “you can do it” then demanding royalties from anyone else who uses the english language. This is because the US legal system allows it, and due to the fact that Etsy is based in the US, they will enforce it for non-UK sellers also.

Screw it – I’ve decided just to go ahead and sell these items anyway. I’m too small for Disney to bother with.

Ok – suit yourself. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.  –>  http://www.swlondoner.co.uk/sutton-woman-slapped-with-4100-fine-for-selling-counterfeit-one-direction-and-frozen-goods-on-ebay/

SHOP MANAGEMENT

How do I stop other people’s products appearing on my product page?

Put your link as www.etsy.com/uk/yourshopname/listings/…. When copying your listing link add your shop name before it says listings. Example:

https://www.etsy.com/uk/geekandprofane/listing/494271510/geek-birthday-card-funny-birthday-card

Does Etsy magically boost your sales when you get to 50/100 listings?

No. Otherwise this would be massively gamed. See Pareidolia.

Should I use UK or US spellings?

Either. Etsy will dictionary match many words that are spelled differently (jewellery/jewelry for example) but not all. Try searching etsy for both spellings and counting the total number of results to see if they are matched. If not, use the spelling that corresponds with your biggest target market.

Are my photos ok?

Would you click that listing if you saw that thumbnail?

Do I have to use all 5 photos?

No, but why wouldn’t you? Ok, I get that for very simple products it can be a challenge coming up with inventive ways to photograph them, so consider photographing them in different locations (on a mantlepiece, held in hand, on a table, skiing down a mountain, on the set of an adult movie*…..)

Also consider the following:

Your first photo is the ‘click grabber’ – it has one job and one job only, to get someone to click on your listing. Don’t be afraid to zoom in on a key feature and crop out part of the product.

Other photos should also show the entire product, and also draw attention to anything that could cause a buyer to be unhappy e.g. size & scale…. “I didn’t read the listing and didn’t realise it was only a miniature item” is a fairly common complaint, because obviously customers rarely read the actual listing, but a photo that shows it to scale can save you a bad review or a refund down the line.

If you’re still struggling to fill all 5 slots, then use one photo to showcase your other products (clearly label it as ‘some of my other products’)

*probably not this

Can I add my existing customers to a mailing list?

No.

How do I get my customers to sign up to a mailing list?

Ask them nicely in your automated dispatch/order confirmation messages. Offer discount codes in your listings for anyone who signs up to a list (use mailchimp and put the discount code in the signup confirmation message). That’s about it.

How do I contact Etsy support?

Go to google, and type in “how do I contact Etsy support”. If you got sent here by mistake, then use this link: https://www.etsy.com/uk/help/contact

When do I need to register with HMRC?

Read this: https://www.gov.uk/set-up-sole-trader

Do I need to register with Companies House?

Not unless you’re becoming a Ltd company, in which case, get an accountant and ask them.

Do I need to charge VAT?

On regular sales of physical objects, no, not until you reach the VAT threshold (currently about £83k – at which point, get yourself an accountant). On digital sales, yes, but Etsy takes care of this for you.

Should I try to stay below the VAT threshold?

Get an accountant, and stop asking a stranger on the internet for financial advice.

Can I ‘split’ my business to stay under the VAT threshold?

Probably not – this is a common form of tax evasion. But get an accountant and stop asking internet strangers for business/tax/financial advice.

Do I need to learn book-keeping?

Wouldn’t hurt, but initially keep every receipt, keep a dated list of what you bought and why, and if you decide to switch to a tool like Quickbooks, do it on the start of the tax year for a cleaner break between 2 sets of accounts.

Someone wants to pay me outside of Etsy to save fees. Should I?

No. Etsy charge a fee to provide you with a service. Moving the transaction outside of Etsy if the initial approach was through Etsy is essentially stealing. Subsequent transactions can be direct, sure. The same as putting your non-etsy website or store on your packaging, but you can’t actively bilk Etsy on the initial transaction.

Do Etsy demand or reward exclusivity of products on their site?

No – you can (and probably should) sell in multiple places.

What is Pattern?

Etsy’s answer to Shopify. A personal website store which is powered by Etsy’s backend inventory and order management software. Advantage is shared stock levels and fulfilment processes, downside is single point of failure, and in my opinion, it’s a bit overpriced for a relatively limited featureset. But do your own research – a lot of people are very happy with Pattern. Competitors are wix, shopify, create.net, squarespace, EKM, and wordpress (self-hosted) with the WooCommerce plugin. Facebook is slowly rolling out a product catalogue feature which I think can be backed off to Paypal for the payment gateway, but at the time of writing this was only fully available in north america.

Is the correct pronunciation ‘kerching’, ‘kaching’ or ‘cha-ching’?

Buy something from my shop, and I’ll tell you.

How do I get a snazzy etsy.me shortened URL?

Use bit.ly – it owns the etsy.me domain and will automatically convert etsy.com into etsy.me shortened addresses.

LISTINGS, SEO, SEARCH

What is SEO?

Search Engine Optimisation is the theory and practice of guessing what your customers will be typing into search boxes and then configuring your listings to appear as high as possible in the list of results that are returned when they press enter. It’s a generic term that originally applied to the big search engines like google, but in theory can apply to any search engine (even Etsy’s own search) that uses weighting and algorithms to determine relevancy and thus position in the search rankings. It’s not the be all and end all, but appearing higher in search results is part of a sensible overall strategy.

Where do I learn about SEO?

By reading everything you can find and figuring it out for yourself. Start with these:

If I’m reading this article then you must be willing to provide some guidance on how to get SEO right rather than ‘go and educate yourself’ I mean….who the fuck do you think you are mister?

Fine. Find a keyword or short phrase that people will actually type into a search box on etsy and that doesn’t return more than about 15,000 results (ideally find a keyword that returns about 3000 results when you’re a new shop because you won’t be able to compete in a 15k category), put that keyword at the start of your title (which I call position 1), and also in your tags. Repeat for position 2 in your title (and make sure to copy it into your tag) and then fill the rest of your title up with semi relevant keywords and copy as many as possible into the tags. Your first 2 keywords should be pretty much unique to that product, as Etsy will only ranks you once per page for each keyword, but most users will go up to 5 pages back in search results, so in theory you can use each keyword 5 times. Renew your listings every few weeks.

Why do I get a few sales of the same thing in a run?

Because ‘Recency’ is one of the 7 primary Etsy search rank factors and when you sell an item, it renews its own listing which counts as a recency boost thereby pushing that listing slightly further up the search ranks and a greater chance it would sell again quickly, and so on.

What are the other 6 primary factors influencing Etsy search rank?

The full list, as described in Etsy’s own handbook article, is:

  1. Title & Tag Relevancy
  2. Item Attribute Relevancy
  3. Listing Quality
  4. Customer Marketplace Experience
  5. Recency
  6. Shop Location
  7. Shop Diversity

I also blogged about these further here: https://geekprofane.wordpress.com/2017/02/18/18-feb-update-to-etsy-search-infographic/

Do tags have to go in order?

No. Tags should match title keywords, and Etsy search places more emphasis on keywords at the start of titles, but tags themselves are unordered.

Why is Etsy’s SEO so friggin’ weird?

Because their developers presumably really liked how Google worked in 2005 and thought their job was done? Because they thought that life wasn’t difficult enough? I don’t really know. Ask Etsy.

I tried Etsyrank/Marmalead/other websites which said I had an ‘Amazeballs’ rating – but no sales – what’s up with that?

Nobody outside of Etsy* actually knows the Etsy search algorithm for sure, it’s all guesswork. True, those websites can make better informed guesses by viewing lots and lots of data and spotting trends so their ratings systems and advice isn’t to be discounted, and in fact I’ve found them quite useful. But take with a pinch of salt. Typically they can only tell you programmatically if you’ve ticked all the boxes, not whether you’ve chosen the right boxes to tick in the first place. I suspect Etsy will give more tidbits of information to some of these sites, so it’s worth keeping an eye on them.

*I’m not even convinced Etsy know how Etsy search works. In fact, as machine learning becomes the norm, it won’t be unusual for search to be a mysterious ‘here be dragons’ black box even to the people who control it. Watch this youtube video by Tom Scott for more.

When I search for my keywords I’m number one in the listing – how awesome am I?

You are undoubtedly awesome because you got off your arse and started a shop, but I’m sorry to say that Etsy will skew search results based on whether or not you’re logged in and the geographical location of where you’re searching from. For a truer representation, log out of etsy and clear cookies, though this still applies a geographical skew based on your IP. To remove all skews, go in via marmalead or etsyrank, or apply for your own developer API and query Etsy yourself. If you don’t know how to form REST queries, I’m not going to explain it here, so go with the other options.

How do I get traffic?

Drive it.

How do I drive traffic?

A mixture of good seo*, a sensible and regular social media strategy, maybe some content marketing, business cards, local fairs. I’ve heard it takes 20 impressions of your brand for someone to trust you enough to buy from you. On Etsy you get to leverage their brand as well, there’s an implied trust and quality factor that goes with being on the platform, and that’s part of what you pay for in terms of listing fees.

*true story: this auto-corrected to ‘good sex’ when I wrote the first draft – and while good sex is rarely a bad thing, if you’re using it to drive website visitors then you’re in the wrong industry

Should I pay for Etsy promoted listings or Google promoted listings via the Etsy console?

Maybe. Give it a try on a limited budget. Monitor, tweak, adjust and then decide.

Should I pay someone lots of money for Etsy SEO advice?

Probably not. I recommend you apply an iterative approach to learning and figuring this out for yourself. In short, this is:

  1. google for etsy seo article and guides
  2. read it & make notes
  3. form a hypothesis or a general theory
  4. cross reference this with other articles and guides
  5. put something into practice
  6. monitor it and adjust where necessary
  7. rinse and repeat

Whilst Etsy SEO is the world’s most frustrating multivariant experiment, after a few iterations and a few hours of reading you should get the basics right. If you can’t be bothered or are unable to do this, you’d have a job convincing me that running an Etsy shop was for you.

What conversion rate should I be getting?

Traditional advice for web retail says 2%. That’s 2 sales for every 100 views of a product in your shop. Some people say 3%. Somewhere between is probably right. Personally I only get worried below 1% and I was personally running at around 1-1.5% which I was comfortable with. If you’re getting 10% or better, then you’re potentially not charging enough (you’re leaving some profit on the table) and you’ll have a problem scaling up because you won’t be making enough to hire people or buy new machines or pay for advertising etc.

In the new Etsy world of visits rather than views, my conversion rate seems to have doubled. That’s 3% of all visits result in an order.

This is really loose so don’t rely on it too much, but I’m going to say that 2% is now a reasonable minimum conversion rate to aim for on Etsy. I may revise this.

Will you provide me with a personal review of my shop?

No.

Seriously?

Fine. It’ll cost you a £1000 donation to a charity of my choice and I won’t guarantee results. In all honesty, if you want a 3rd party review there are plenty of listings on Etsy for shop review for £10 all the way up to a grand. Start with the cheap ones and see how you get on, then go with the more expensive ones a few months down the line once you’ve learned the basics thoroughly.

 

Got more questions or think I got something wrong? Post in the comments below and I’ll try to get back to you asap.

 

Contributors

Thanks for additions and corrections to:

Linda – https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/notesandclips

Jen – https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/FairyFountainGifts

Fliss – https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/DottyMooShop

Leanne – https://www.etsy.com/shop/norahandmeshop

4 Comments

  1. Yep, sarcastically well written Rob!
    Lots of good info here 😃
    When you’ve understood what Rob has written and then used his links for more information and exhausted those too … … Then go on Pinterest and search out Etsy Help for more info. It too, is a useful mine of info, I know, cos that’s where I pin every useful bit of info I find to share with others.

    Etsy needs to be understood and continually worked on.

    Like

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