Using Etsy For Your Business

How are you reaching out to your client-base? Choosing the right venue can be tricky. With more artists and crafters increasing their online presence, promoting your work is not as straightforward. Beyond marketplaces like Amazon, Ebay, or Craiglist, the alternative is to select a niche service that connects your business to customers that seek out your style and specialty.

One such alternative to consider is Esty. As the leading online marketplace for artisans, Etsy’s focus on art and crafts sets it apart from other services like Ebay. Etsy provides sellers with web pages that serve as shop fronts. Sellers can display their handmade items, craft supplies, or vintage items that are at least 20-years-old. Sellers can personalize their shops with details about the seller’s work, vision, and custom services.

Whether you currently are a seller on Etsy or are looking to expand your business, let’s navigate through several key features. First, we will outline steps for setting up a shop on Etsy. Second, we will go over ways to increase visibility and promote your shop. For more complete information covering Etsy requirements and policies, please read the follow-up post A Guide to Etsy’s Terms and Conditions.

Getting Started

It is free to create and register an account on Etsy. However, it costs 20 cents to list an item in your shop for a 4-month period. Etsy also charges a 3.5% transaction fee from the price of the sold item (does not include shipping price).

Knowledge of html and web design isn’t needed since Etsy provides a shop template. You are able to customize the shop’s banner, profile page, shop policies, and URL link based on your username.

Shop Name and Trademarks

If you have already have name and branding along with an existing client-base, it makes sense to maintain it. Otherwise, this is an opportunity to create the business’s image. Besides keeping the business name as the sole owner’s personal name or as the entity’s name, another option is to set up a trade name, also known as a “Doing Business As” (DBA) name. The U.S. Small Business Administration has provided a list of links by state to DBA filing requirements.

Keep trademark law in mind when picking your name. Over time, it might make sense to use the business name as the trademark. A trademark is any branding that acts as the business’s source identifier. This means that the trademark causes the consumer to associate it with a business’s image, quality, specialty, and goodwill. For instance, when you see the word “Apple” and the image of an apple missing a bite do you think of the fruit or the tech company?

Trademarks do not need to be registered; first and consistent use in commerce is enough to establish a trademark. In that case, two scenarios could crop up. Another business could challenge the trademark by claiming similarity. Or, the Secretary of State for state registration or U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for federal registration may not accept the application.

As a result, do a bit of research before selecting the business’s name and branding. It would be difficult and expensive to change it later. Check search engines to see if other businesses in the same field have similar branding, search your state’s databases for trade names and business licenses, and examine the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s database. Findlaw has some good tips for selecting a business name.

Images, Items, and Copyright

Etsy allows you to upload images that display your item listing. If you feel certain designs are unique and important in setting your business apart from others, you could add some safeguards. With the images you upload, clearly state in your shop policy whether visitors are allowed to share or blog about your shop and you can take it one step further and add watermarks that indicate who the image belongs to.

In regards to handmade items, determine whether you would allow someone else to re-create and sell your design or base their work off it. You could state under your copyright policy whether other artisans could contact you seeking a license to use your work.

Copyright registration is not necessary. Copyright protection extends to all “original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression.” Accordingly, your original work is protected once there is a tangible record of it like a photograph, sketch, or if it’s a physical object. While no one else can copy the work or make a new work using it, you cannot stop someone from taking the same idea and expressing it in a new and different way.

If you sell vintage items, keep in mind that the first-sale doctrine does permit the resale of legal copies of copyrighted works.

Other Business Considerations

If you work from home, use a P.O Box or Private mailbox service instead of the home address. To an extent this is a precaution from unfamiliar buyers having your address. Also, if you need help keeping track of orders, consider using an email address solely for Etsy separate from general business.

Browse other Etsy shops and develop your own shop policies for returns, shopping, and warranties.

Marketing through Social Networking

Part of advertising a business is more than getting its name out there and garnering traffic. A great deal of it involves building a relationship with customers. The beauty of artisan work is that people do not just want to be consumers. They appreciate the creative process, the story behind it, and person-to-person dealing. By sharing your work and the meaning behind it, this form of marketing builds loyalty.

It is critical then to focus your advertising strategy instead of flooding the market. Tailoring your message keeps people interested and they are less likely to see it as generic. Sending mass emails, tweeting sales pitches on Twitter, or constantly updating Facebook News Feed gets lost in the sea of advertising noise. Etsy has its own take on how to be active and engaging online.

One great way to get people to come to you and spread the word to others is to start a YouTube channel for your business. Consistently post how-to videos and simple tutorials that people can try at home. For instance, if your business consists of handmade jewelry, make a video demonstrating a simple pendant-making project. This allows you to give people an experience.  You could even take requests on what video tutorial to make next.

On Twitter, instead of just tweeting text, add photos through TwitPic showing different stages of your work. When making updates about new items in your Etsy shop, post pictures of things, or links to music, or other things that inspire your work. If you’re announcing a sale, make it interesting by offering something special to the 10th person who retweets your message, or host a picture scavenger hunt and offer a discount to the winners.

On Facebook you can use the My Etsy Facebook app, which integrates your Etsy shop into Facebook. Utilize this for your business’s fan page. Visitors can click the My Etsy tab and interact your shop and view your featured and recently listed items. In addition, when you add a new item listing, the app lets you announce it through Facebook News Feed. Facebook Connect also helps announce new item listings.

With blogs, you can integrate your Etsy shop into a blog with Etsy Mini. Craftevolution provides more information on how this works and how to make a custom Etsy Mini. You can also integrate your business’s blog with its Facebook Fan page. With the blog you can post additional photos and details for items, announce new seasonal lines, and keep customers informed. As a resource, Etsy provides its own detailed blogging guide.

Visibility on Etsy

Visitors to the site can search among listings in numerous ways including by a seller’s name, keywords matching an item’s title or description categories, region, color. Visitors can also see what’s been newly added under recent listings or browse through Etsy’s current featured sellers. Increasing visibility on search listings is key to standing out on Etsy.

Here are some things you can do to increase visibility:

  • Update your inventory regularly so it shows up among recent listings.
  • Add variations in spelling to tags for your items, that way your shop shows up despite a misspelled search term.
  • Make sure your photos are clear and crisp with plenty of natural lighting. Use interesting settings and shots of the item to catch visitors’ attention.
  • Regularly check Etsy’s custom-made request forum, Alchemy. Buyers make requests and you can bid on them. Also, display your custom-made orders in your shop and add a photo or description of different options for buyers.
  • Join an Etsy team; this is a great way to get visibility because you collaborate with other sellers.
  • Become a commenter on Etsy’s forums. You can help out customers looking for advice and build relationships with other sellers.
  • Etsy has also launched a chat feature in addition to the forums.
  • One of the best ways to stand out is to get involved with Etsy’s blog, The Storque. It features guides and advice for sellers, but it also promotes sellers by interviewing them and directs customers to featured sellers.
  • Etsy also hosts live video sessions called Virtual Labs where sellers and customers get together and learn a new craft or make a project. It’s a great way to become part of the community and participate.

Additional Resources

A checklist by Etsy to help keep your shop on track

Etsy’s selling and shop process

A detailed Etsy handbook of social networking sites and tools to utilize for marketing

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