I’m sure you’ve heard about the absolute dream that is successfully selling on Etsy. Crafting in your pajamas? Not needing to work intensely long hours to make a few bucks? Actually having FUN? Sounds like some sort of made-up fantasy, right?

At 19, a year into college, I started an Etsy shop on a whim. I hand-painted a mug for my cousin’s birthday, and had a ton of fun making it… so I took the plunge and set up shop. I’m glad I did, because it ended up being SO much more of a success than I ever thought that it would be. During the second year, I was bringing in $4k/month in revenue, working only 5 hours a week.

That dream can be your reality. I’m serious. And I’m here to tell you how.

Everything you need to know about starting an Etsy store while in college!

Before getting started, you need to ask yourself these questions.

Am I ready?

Though it sounds like a breeze (and, okay, I made it sound pret-ty easy in the intro), an Etsy shop IS hard work. You’ll be putting quite a bit of time into it, with little to no return at the beginning. Once orders start rolling in, depending on the time it takes for you to create your products, you’ll be needing to use your time management skills to the MAX to make sure that you keep on top of your classes and on top of your orders. Are you ready for that? Make sure that you are.

If you’re feeling a little hesitant, but you think you can handle it, DO IT. It’s all kinds of rewarding. You’ll be hand-making pieces that you love (for MONIES!), creating products that customers will adore, and working for yourself. On your own time. In your pajamas. I know this is the second time I mention pajamas, but can you even blame me? It’s pretty freakin’ awesome.

Are my pieces and process ready?

You’ll be selling your finished masterpieces on Etsy, whether made to order or ready to ship. Do you have the process for creating a single item down pat? I’m talking about the beginning, middle, and end of the product’s creation, up until it’s in your customer’s hands.

If you aren’t there yet, take some time to finalize your process. If you like to knit scarves for example, the next time you finish one, write down how long it took you (in hours), and how long it would take you to create it if someone was waiting on it. Can you keep the yarn on hand (or is it readily available for purchase at a shop)? Would you fold it and tie it with a ribbon before packaging it up?

It’s all a learning process, so don’t be too tough with yourself, but know that you do need to be confident with your pieces and your process before moving forward.

Let’s do this.

Set up shop.

You’ll need to create an account on Etsy first. Both shop owners and customers have the same type of account, but shop owners have an extra section: the Shop. That’s where the magic happens. 😉

If you’ve already made a purchase on Etsy, you already have an account. If you haven’t, you’ll need to create an account and confirm it by clicking on the link sent to your email.

Once you’re set, you’ll want to head to etsy.com/sell, click the button beckoning to begin to your future, and go through the short process to set up shop. You’ll need a bank account for direct deposits. They’ll ask for your personal information as well – your social security number (or tax ID) and current address, among others. I’ve never heard about any personal info issues with Etsy, so your deets are safe with them.

Take photos.

For the clearest, most vibrant photos, use natural lighting and a white backdrop. I was able to do this with a white flexible poster board (from The Dollar Tree, no lie), against a wall near a window in my bedroom, with my iPhone! These look very similar to the ones I used. Use a photo editing app to adjust the brightness, contrast, and saturation in the photo. My personal favorite app is VSCO.

Be sure to stay away from props that are irrelevant to the product. Take photos from all angles, and use all 5 available spots for photos in your listing.

Price your products.

Etsy has a blog post that describes a pricing formula that I think is pretty fab – read about it hereThat being said, the labor section is a little vague and not helpful for someone just starting out. Do not short-change yourself. Take a look at your competitors products on Etsy. How are they priced? What is the range? Hit the mid-to-high range on the prices and don’t price them too low.

Your work will move faster if priced in that sweet spot. It sounds absolutely crazy and completely backwards from common sense, but it’s true. Customers rarely go for the cheapest option, especially when purchasing handmade. If you price your products cheaply, it’ll make visitors wonder why you don’t have the confidence that’s expected in handmakers. It’ll make them wonder: is something wrong with it? Is it broken or cheaply-made?

Write product descriptions.

My formula for the perfect product description is

hook + details + care info + blurb & links

With the hook, you rope your customer in by painting your product in a gorgeous light. Describe your work in a way that has them imagining it as a part of their life, or as a great gift for someone they love.

The details should answer all of the questions the customer may have. Give the facts on what the product is made of, how it was made, and other relevant information.

In the care information, let the customer know exactly how to properly care for the product. 

In the short blurb and links section, let the customer know what your shop is all about, and what it is that you make. Link them to the shopfront, and if you have similar pieces, link to them as well.

Download the Sell on Etsy app to hear that cha-ching!

You have no idea how good it feels to hear that notification sound ping. Cha-ching! during lunch, Cha-ching! during work, Cha-ching! while in the middle of class (I’m kidding. Put your phone on silent or you’ll get the weirdest looks).

Keep your shop updated and continuously improving.

Your shop is more than just a bunch of listings! You’ve got branding, policies, and an About page to set up, but take it one step at a time. I suggest looking at the way other shops have theirs set up. It’s a good way to get your brainstorming gears moving.

Keep updating and improving your shop – add listings when you have new products ready, update the tags to improve your listings’ search results, and add to your descriptions when you feel as though more info is needed because you get the same question so often.

Treat your customers right.

Handmade items have their own sort of magic, and it’s even more magical to customers when they receive a package that feels like a gift. Write cute thank you notes, wrap your lovely work in pretty wrapping paper and ribbons, and put all your love into creating. It’s a blessing to be able to say that you honestly love what brings in the moolah, so pass along the good feelings to the people who make it possible.

Be sure to grab the checklist to make sure you don’t miss a thing from this guide! Click here to grab it.

rawa-saleh-portrait-circle-1I’m Rawa Saleh, and I help creatives and artisans get their KILLER start setting up their online shop using Etsy. I do it with humor (okay, sometimes my jokes are a little corny), sharing the techniques and strategies that I used to build my own shop while in college.  Grab The College Girl’s Checklist to Getting Started on Etsy here, and get the head start you need on creating the job of your dreams – one that works on YOUR terms and on YOUR schedule.

One thought on “The College Girl’s Guide to Getting Started on Etsy

  1. Love this post, I’ve always wanted to start my own business, I just don’t know what I would sell! It’s encouraging to see entrepreneurship working for fellow college students, and I’m sure one day I’ll figure out what I love enough to set up a business around!


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