...starting on Etsy, self-doubt, and just getting on with it

...You have your lovely crafty thing; it looks good; and friends and family keep making comments about selling them somewhere. So should you?

 In short, yes.

 So many people voice doubts about selling online, particularly a platform like Etsy - and that's totally valid. Putting something online - a thing that you've spent hours poring over, and are really proud of - is really nerve-wracking. It feels like putting a little piece of your soul online for people to evaluate, and (for me, at least) felt like some sort of attention-grab that would be embarrassing if (or when) it failed.

 Looking back, I put far too much thought into whether or not I should actually start a shop - the best piece of advice I heard (and I can't remember where) was to just get on with it. You'll - quite literally - never know whether people will ever want to buy your stuff, unless you put it out there. A common worry is that your shop needs to be perfect before you 'go live'. Not the case at all. Try to see your shop as a constant work in progress - the most important thing is to just start.

 Here, I'll try to lay out the basic steps to creating an Etsy shop - everything you'll need to get you on your way!

  

Finding a Shop Name

This is perhaps one of the most over-considered parts of creating a shop - and it needn't be! Your shop can be called (almost) anything - it's more about the things that you actually produce; customers will then begin to associate your lovely things with the name.

 If the shop will be all about your photography, illustrations, or other art, then just use your name!

 Or how about your craft business doing just what it says on the tin? Think about the hugely successful Cambridge Satchel  Company - the founder, Julie Dean (OBE), lived in Cambridge and made satchels - a simple, descriptive name can sound really classy.

 How about a good pun? Can you make a play on words that includes your craft?

 Finding my own business name was pretty simple - I live in Edinburgh, and a friend suggested looking up Scots or Gaelic words associated with embroidery. A couple of online searches led me to the Scots word 'Paraffle', meaning 'embroidery' (and also 'an ostentatious display', which I think is a great phrase!). It felt good, I took the name and was done with it.

 If you think you've found your name, make sure you have a good search online - there's a chance that someone has already thought of it (always the way when you think you've got a killer pun) - in which case, have a re-think.

  

Creating the Shop

 Once you have your name, create an email account using this (I used Gmail for a quick start). If you're feeling up to it, create a logo on a site like Canva - they have loads of templates, art, and fonts to create a simple logo (and you can always revise this later, if you have a better idea!).  Use your email address to register for Etsy and go through the step-by-step setup process to make your shop.

 Next up, take some pictures of your craft/work. Try to use soft natural light, without too many strong shadows (I won't cover how to do that here; partly because photography is one of the things I'm worst at and there's FAR better advice elsewhere online). When I need a quick picture, I tend scour my house for something that can serve as a good background - like a wooden table, or a jazzy cushion or blanket (hot tip: taking a couple of wallpaper samples from a DIY/homeware shop works great for this!)  - and then set it up to the side of a window to take some clear pictures.

 Then - and this is the big step - list your first item.

 Choose an accurate, descriptive title for the product (sometimes looking at similar items on Etsy can highlight effective titles). Upload your pictures, write a clear description of what it is and how it's made, and try to use helpful tags - terms that people might use when searching for work like yours. There's TONNES of helpful resources elsewhere online (and some good podcasts, too) that can show you how to use tags, pictures, and descriptions effectively, so it's worth having a browse when you have the time.

 As I mention above, a common worry (that I certainly had) is that your shop needs to be perfectly presented - with a huge, glorious range of products and all sorts of professional photography - before you 'go live'. Instead, try to see your shop as a constant work in progress - something to develop as you create more things and work out what designs or products people gravitate towards.

 It's absolutely fine to begin with just one or two items - as you work on improving the shop, you can choose to remove items that you don't think fit any more. In my case, once I had a few listings, I gradually deleted older ones that weren't the same quality as my new stuff, or didn't fit with the wider range of products that I'd slowly created. 

 

 Social Media 

Alongside creating an Etsy shop comes the push to go on social media and other online spaces. This will probably be the main way you can show (and sell!) your lovely crafts to people - but again, it can be a bit anxiety-inducing.

 Use your new email address to make a new Instagram account - and others such as Pinterest, or a Facebook page if you're feeling keen. Put a link to your Etsy shop in your info/bio, and get posting - start with the pictures you took earlier, or try to take some progress shots while you're making your stuff.

 At the start, some feeling - nervousness, embarrassment, I don't know - made me so reluctant to tell people about my Etsy shop that I kept my Instagram pretty secret for a long time. But if you feel confident enough and know a bunch of enthusiastic friends, then show them and ask for their support!

Get some hashtags on your Insta posts, so that interested people will be able to find them: scan through people doing the same kind of craft as you, follow them, and take note of the hashtags they use.  Look for other small businesses with Instagram accounts, too (look up one of your hashtags, sort by 'new' rather than 'top') - give them a follow. If you love their work, comment and tell them; and if you have a question about a cool technique they're using, then ask! Keep the faith that a small online community will come, if you keep enthusiastically engaging.

 

 Keep going!

Don't put too much pressure on yourself (or the shop!). It can take a really, really long time to get your first sale, so try not to become obsessed with checking it every 10 minutes (it's tempting, I know). It can be really draining to pin everything on this, in the hope that it'll work immediately, and so many people feel disheartened when it takes a while to take off.

Chances are, it'll take a little longer - which is fine, as long you as you go in with that knowledge (and that's also why it's best to start now, rather than later!).

 

Keep plodding along - making your lovely things, reading up on Etsy tips, engaging on social media, and working on your photography. You'll get there!


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