Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Tips for Selling and Shopping on Etsy

Are you considering selling fabric or hand made items online?
Do you shop online for fabric and quilting supplies?
This (somewhat lengthy) post includes 8 subjects that benefit both seller's and buyer's!

How I might best approach this subject has been stewing in my head for some time. I've been hesitant because I actually try to avoid blogging about sales. My goal in blogging is not to advertise/increase sales, although blogging has led to a couple fabric sales for me that I know of, and I was thrilled both times. I keep links on my sidebar, and occasionally mention something new regarding the shop(s), however I make a point of limiting Etsy-related ramblings because, quite frankly, I do not want to annoy any followers! That said, if you shop Etsy, knowledge is power! I appreciate your time reading and any tips you can share here as well. I took a few notes this week, with two goals in mind: Keep this as short and informative as possible! 

A bit of background first: I began my first Etsy shop in October of 2012. After one year, I opened another shop in order to separate supplies from hand-made items. My shop seemed cluttered and it occurred to me that customer's shopping for supplies were not likely to be interested in items that I have made. Different  customer's led to different shops! Between the two shops, I am nearing 350 total sales. Not breaking any records here, but the sales have been worthwhile. Selling on Etsy is a hobby I enjoy, and here is what I have learned thus far:
1. Seller fees: Etsy charges .20 cents to list each item for four months. If multiple quantities are available, the seller is charged .20 for each quantity purchased. When there is a sale, an additional 3.5% fee is charged by Etsy. Unlike ebay, Etsy does not include shipping fees collected when calculating their final value fees. Paypal has an additional fee. Not all Etsy shops accept credit cards because an additional fee is charged that varies by country - a minimum of 3% fee is charged and some countries have a flat-fee in addition to that. This is one reason that many Etsy shops prefer to make custom listings when selling internationally. Countries such as Denmark, Sweden, and Norway charge $2.50 + 4% when a purchase is made via credit card.
2. Etsy shipping fees: It is a bit difficult to offer accurate shipping fees on Etsy, especially for multiple items, and for international shipping as well. Seller's are able to list a flat fee for an item, as well as a lower price for 'multiple items purchased'. This works really well in some instances, and not-so-much in others... which brings me to #3

3. Getting the best deal on Etsy: It is OK to negotiate! Most seller's appreciate if you 'convo' them! Actually, this may not always be true, but it doesn't hurt and you will know by the response you receive. Some stores are obviously licensed fabric reps and less inclined to negotiate of course. Many shop owners are like myself though. Personally, I enjoy working with a customer and will often cut specific amounts, bundle certain items, custom-create a home made item, and best of all, I will accurately quote the lowest shipping option and 'save' the listing as a custom order until the purchase is completed by the buyer. Sometimes I will accept a lower offer as well, especially for yardage. All of this does take some extra time, and can be a bit frustrating for a seller because the buyer sometimes mysteriously disappears! I recommend showing great appreciation when a buyer does take the time to notify you when they have changed their mind!

4. Sell quality products on Etsy! This is so important! It withholds the high-quality image and integrity of all Etsy shops! I put my heart and soul into preparing and describing items as accurately as possible! Disclose to the buyer whether the fabric has been washed or pressed. Avoid storing fabric in plastic as the fabric will smell, especially in humid locations! It is best to avoid selling anything on Etsy that has any odor at all. If it is truly special, vintage, rare, or whatever, disclose any imperfections :-) Everyone knows, I think, the value of great photos, but I will add that the lighting is so important to portraying true color. Especially true of greens and purples I find! If you do not have photo editing software, use an online source such as PicMonkey.
5. Pricing your items: Before listing, take time to comparison shop for similar items. Price fabric according to the going rate and current availability. I think it is important to avoid grossly undercutting the same product available at other stores. When selling online, I find patience is required, sometimes re-listing is necessary before the right buyer comes along. If you find it necessary to undercut the competition in order to move something, a sale price is a nice way to do it. New listings run at the top of the search engines. If an item has been listed without attention for a long period, consider paying for additional ad service (available on Etsy). Minimally, check the listing and attempt to improve wording and search words by editing it. I have no way to know if this is true, but sometimes I swear just making a simple edit puts my item on the top of the search engines again. (anyone else noticed this?)
6. Packaging/Shipping: Once a payment is made, package and ship ASAP. We all know what it is like to wait for a fabric purchase! I think Etsy customers' expect a tidy package too, and I don't think I am the only one who enjoys receiving a little bonus surprise of some sort. Etsy is all about creativity! It really pays to get familiar with the packaging options available from USPS. Just last week, Etsy teamed up with USPS and has increased the weight limit for First Class Shipping to 16 Ounces for any sale through Etsy! Quilting fabric averages 4oz per yard - that allows a seller to offer really reasonable rates! Priority mailers supplied by USPS are available at the post, but other legal-size and bubble mailers are available (free) online.
Again, tidiness says a lot. I have received packages that are torn and mangled. Therefore, when packing, I choose to package fabric in clean plastic before packaging, and I use tape on all mailer-edges. Perhaps I sacrifice a sale here or there, but I personally refuse to stuff  9+ yards in a flat rate envelope. It may be insured, but what a shame to have fabric damaged when it can be avoided, and also so disappointing for the buyer to receive!
7. Returns: As a seller, I appreciate honesty from a customer. Small failures lead to big successes, but not if we are not aware of them. I think it is best to offer returns without question, however that is up to each seller. A clear return policy should be stated under shop policies. Review's are highly visible on a storefront - I think most shop owner's appreciate the opportunity to rectify a problem prior to receiving a poor review. Contact the seller promptly when there is a discrepancy. 
8. Shop Review: This is the subject most dear to my heart, and thus saved for last. I find it hard to obtain a shop review on Etsy, yet the number is more prominently displayed on a storefront than the actual number of sales, which is a bit more hidden. I have noticed most shops do have a low percentage/ratio of 'feedback' to their number of sales. It seems perhaps 1 in 5 customer's take the time for a review. I have tried quite a few things to increase this without much improvement. Quite often I receive an email thanking me for the great purchase. I have contacted customer support about ways to improve this. A dozen times or so customer's have asked me how to leave a review:
'Hover' your mouse on the upper-right of the screen, over 'your account' and click 'purchases and reviews' on the scroll-down menu. I do not currently have a purchase there to check this out with, but I think there is a way to leave this anonymously. (can anyone confirm this?)
Because reviews are so hard to obtain, I always email and thank the customer for taking the time when I receive each one.

Ironic Note: If this post has led you to check out my shop today, it is likely you noticed the very poor review I received yesterday, while this post was still in draft. It is my first unhappy customer (as far as I know!). The review really took me by surprise since it is regarding a fabric sale from one month ago and there was no prior contact informing me there was a problem. I have offered a full refund. I'm doing my best to resolve this & trying to convince the buyer to remove the review. If it is still there, than I have not succeeded! I am hesitant when posting anything personal like this, but I really took this hard, and I figure if anyone can benefit from my experience, it is worth putting myself out there a bit!

I have added this page to my main webpage tab. I appreciate any additional tips and experiences you may want to add there!


  1. Hi Heidi!
    Thank you for all of the tips, I am very new to Etsy, so this post was very helpful!

  2. I too find that getting reviews is difficult.

    I dont have many sales yet (I dont have many items in my shop, it's mostly an 'outlet' for when I make something that I don't have an immediate need for).

    I also don't make my blog about my Etsy shop/sales, though I will mention at the end of a blog post if that item is for sale in the Etsy shop and provide a link. And I will occasionally post a facebook status highlighting a few items.

    As for shipping/packaging; I do use packaging that will protect the item but I do not do 'fancy', simply to keep the cost down, and I do state that in my shop policies ("I try to keep shipping costs as low as possible by using the minimum amount of packaging required to ensure you product arrives safely / undamaged. For small, non-fragile items, this may be a simple bubble/padded envelope.") I do include a thank you note with each order.

    When I order from Etsy shops I do often convo first. One item I ordered only offered one of the item and I convo'd to ask if there were more and lo and behold there were three. The seller made a custom listing for me with combined shipping.

    My Etsy experience has been minimal but very good. I've had to provide only one refund and that was because the purchaser did not read the details or look at all the photos (just at the item name), but I refunded fully and re-listed the item.

    Overall my experience with Etsy has been very good, both as a seller and as a buyer.

    (sorry this comment is so long!)

  3. I really appreciate your comments! My post was so long, I am glad you were able to muscle through it!

    My hubby sells more fragile items than I do and uses some interested packaging, such as empty plastic water bottles. He puts little notes in there in case buyers are put off, 'Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!'

  4. Thanks for this post! I've been thinking about opening an Etsy shop for a few months now, but haven't actually done it yet. To be honest, part of my hesitation is I don't know what to do about taxes, especially for any purchases that come from my fellow Canadians. Everything I've read about it makes it sound incredibly confusing.

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  6. I totally agree about selling quality products. Everyone loves cheap prices, but that doesn't mean the quality should be cheap as well. The right price for the right quality, right? If the customers know that your shop is reliable, they'll keep coming back for more. It's the best marketing strategy out there. In any way, thanks for those tips, Heidi! More power to you! :)

    Cory Phil @ Front Burner Marketing, LLC

  7. This is very informative; thank you. For anyone thinking about starting up an Etsy shop, it is important that you have a good product that is priced correctly. This definitely clears up some of the hurdles I would have faced trying to dive right in the blind. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge.

  8. headphones
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