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5 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started Selling on Etsy

desk with clip board, watch, pencils, notebook, and a macbook pro

I had no idea what I was doing when I first started selling on Etsy. Things that now seem basic, like shipping, were overwhelming and foreign to me. Thankfully, over the past 5 years, I’ve gotten a handle on the essentials.

Today, I wanted to share 5 things I wish I had known before I started my shop on Etsy. Looking back, had I learned these in the beginning, certain parts of building my shop would’ve been a heck of a lot easier. It’s my hope that this helps you as you start or grow your shop!



1. Success on Etsy Takes Time

When I first started selling on Etsy, I was totally guilty of thinking that my shop would take off immediately. I was expecting to sell items within the week. Unfortunately, that’s usually not how things work on Etsy… and trust me it can be discouraging to learn that the hard way!

Nowadays, anytime I add a new listing or implement a new strategy, I give it 6 months before I make a judgement call on it. It can take a while for a listing to gain traction in the Etsy algorithm, so I try not to give up right away.

If you’ve just started your shop and nothing is happening yet, don’t get discouraged! I recommend giving it at least 6 months. If nothing has happened by then, it might be time to evaluate your listing photos, description, price, or shipping options.

2. How to Easily Ship Things

Shipping can be the most confusing thing when you first start selling on Etsy. When I sold my first product, I hand wrote the address on a manila envelope then stood in line at the post office before I sent it on its merry way across the country. Learn from my mistake: this is not the way to ship on Etsy!

Etsy has an awesome backend where you can easily print shipping labels for multiple orders at once. Your address, your buyer’s address, USPS tracking… it’s all there. It’ll even automatically email the tracking number to your buyer. Once you have your labels printed, you can schedule a USPS pickup online. You don’t even have to drive to the post office!

You can read how to print a shipping label here.

When it comes to shipping supplies, I have found Amazon to be an Etsy seller’s best friend. You can get boxes, bubble wrap, mailers, tape… everything you need. The one thing we couldn’t live without in our shop is label paper. Y’all, it makes life so much easier! Just peel and stick, no taping! You can get a pack of 200 labels on Amazon for $12. Worth every penny.

3. Good Photos are the Most Important Thing

Coming from wedding photography, you’d think I would have fully understood the importance of good product photos. Now don’t get me wrong, I knew I needed to put a little thought into my photos, but I didn’t dedicate nearly as much energy into them as I should’ve.

I am a firm believer that photos are one of, if not the most important thing you can do for your Etsy shop. Not only can they convince a buyer to choose your product over your competitors, they can also strengthen your brand when they’re cohesive.

I dive into all the reasons why I think having amazing Etsy photos is important in this post. And I talk about 3 ways to get better photos in this post.

Long story short, photos are worth investing time and money into. I recommend doing it from the very beginning!

4. Treat your business like a business

Okay, full honesty here: I am not the best at this. My brain just doesn’t do logistics and budgets all that well. (That’s why I hire an accountant now.) Learn from my mistakes and treat your Etsy shop like a business from the very beginning.

First things first here is to keep track of your business expenses! When it comes time to pay taxes on your Etsy income, you will want to have a good record of what you’ve spent on your business, so you can accurately report your income.

There are a few options for keeping track of this. Quickbooks for small businesses is a good option. It’s only $6 a month and makes tracking expenses really easy. (This is what I use.) A free option is to keep an excel doc. I did this in the beginning and just went through my credit card once a month and added all of my expenses.

Depending on the size of your store, it may be worth it to explore becoming an LLC or obtaining a sales tax license.

Not only does treating your shop like a business help you on the logistical side, it also sets the tone for how your dream for your business. If you are expecting to build a business, you will be much more motivated to make it grow than if you are just calling it a side hustle.

5. Have a system

Piggy backing right off my last point, I recommend setting up a system as soon as you start your shop. Back in the day, when it was just me at Saltwater Prep, I was a logistical mess. My shop ran on post it notes and random thoughts in my head.

Well, that obviously didn’t work when it came time to hire someone. I had to re-work the entire system so that someone could walk into the shop and quickly understand how we operate.

Keeping your orders and tasks organized in a binder or on Trello from the beginning saves you from the logistical nightmare of developing a system 2 years in. Trust me.

Just remember, like anything, it doesn’t have to be perfect at first! Your system will evolve over time, but starting with something is better than nothing.

That’s all for today friends! If you have an Etsy shop, let me know in the comments. I would love to hear about it. Thanks for reading!

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