A Beginners Guide to Selling on Etsy

I began selling on Etsy in 2017 and launched my own Website in April 2018. I built a successful online business as my previous business, Adventure Accessories, selling gifts for Outdoor Enthusiasts. 

I had my Adventure Accessories website for almost 4 years and I still have my own website now as Sarah Lou Crafts. I do not promote Etsy at all. I only focus on driving traffic to my website. If you are interested on other marketplace platforms and website options that are available to UK Sellers you can read my post titled 'Marketplaces and Website Options for UK Sellers'.

Etsy thankfully brings me organic traffic and I have a different set of products on Etsy where I have my Crochet patterns and Craft Kits. I also have a small selection of my best selling, Notebook Journals, Cord Bracelets and Paw Print Pictures. 

Running both Etsy and my website and managing inventory can be difficult. When an item sells on one platform you need to remember to remove it from the other or update stock levels and if you change prices or information you need to make the changes on the two different sites. 

The Benefits of Selling on Etsy

There are lots of benefits to selling on Etsy these are just a few that I like. 

Also Etsy takes care of listings that need to have Value Added Tax (VAT) added to them such as digital downloads for example. Etsy does all that work behind the sense they collect VAT and other taxes at the point of sale and submit it to the relevant tax authorities for you. Which is why I keep my digital download PDF patterns on Etsy. Although I understand Shopify does some of the VAT and Tax for sellers but I cannot confirm that as I have never used Shopify. 

Etsy has a built in and streamlined messaging function so that customers can easily get in contact with you regarding orders or to request custom commissions etc. Here is a lovely customer encounter I had soon after re-opening as my new business. 

Good Customer Service

A customer ordered from me, I dispatched and went on to my next order. A couple of days later I got a message asking a question about their order. 

I replied to them through Etsy messages, answered their question in detail and hoped they would be happy with my reply. I was a bit concerned that they might have ordered the wrong thing and were going to want to return the item. 

Another couple of days go by and they have replied to my Etsy message, thanking me for my kind and detailed response and then promptly placed a second order. 

So, good customer service wins the day.  

Continue reading though for a complete beginners guide to starting your shop and selling on Etsy below.

A Beginners Guide to Selling on Etsy

Disclaimer: Before we start let me just say, I am not a big Etsy seller, and this is not one of those ‘How to be the next super Star Seller’ or ‘Make your first million’ type of posts. This is down to earth, nuts and bolts, hints and tips that I have picked up over the years and wish to goodness I had known from the start. 

If you are okay with that and are looking to start selling on Etsy, then this is a great beginners quick selling guide to Etsy 101.

What are you planning on selling?

Do you have a product people will want? Do you have a unique selling point (USP) that can solve a buyer's problem? PLEASE NOTE - 

Etsy is for HANDMADE, Vintage (Over 20 years old) and Craft Supplies. 

Handmade is in Capital letters because they MUST be handmade by you, or you can get a production company to help you with making these items but they MUST be designed COMPLETELY by you and made EXCLUSIVELY for you. 

Are your products free from Trademark, Copyright or Intellectual Property?

This is CRITICAL. You can NOT sell fan art, or items 'INSPIRED BY famous people or well known companies or brands'. 

What is Your Why?

Before you start, ask yourself, 'What is your why? Why do you want to use Etsy as your selling platform? Is Etsy your target market? Take a few minutes to think about this as it will help you when setting up your store and filling in the sections.

Crafting is a creative outlet. Crafting is proven to help boost your own mental health and can help to give you a focus and purpose. I needed to do something with all the makes that were building up. I could only give so many away to family and friends as gifts. I love to make so I decided to try selling a few of my items to help fund more supplies for more making. The four craft markets that I tried proved so popular, it gave me the confidence to set up Adventure Accessories and I am now a full-time craft maker and small business owner.

My why? I am an advocate for a more ecological lifestyle and am an advocate for the growing Slow Fashion industry. I believe in sustainable clothing, accessories and home décor. My crafts also bring me joy, selling online and attending craft events boosts my confidence and allows me to earn enough to buy more craft supplies. I love working with customers to plan and make their own unique personal gifts.

Etsy - Create an Account

This is the easy bit and the beauty of Etsy is that it is free to make an account. You only pay a small listing fee and fees when you sell an item. We will come to fees later.

I created my account in April 2017 but didn't list my first item until October 17, then changed my shop name, re-branded and went 'full-time' in April 2018. My three sales from October to March were obviously pure fluke. I didn't even know what SEO was. I have had lots more sales since 'making an effort', but as I said I am not a big seller and I am happy with that. 

Running an Etsy shop is very different to an eCommerce website and I wish I had known all about titles, tags, attributes and Etsy SEO before I had opened my shop. It is all done very differently to Google and there is a lot to learn.


Listings - Titles, Descriptions, Attributes, Tags and Photos.

Listing a product costs just 20 US cents, plus VAT. A more detailed breakdown of fees is below and get used to everything being in American currency and the price you pay from the UK or elsewhere will fluctuate depending on exchange rates at the time that you pay your bill. 

Each listing lasts for 4 months. If you do not sell your item in this time your listing will expire, and you will be given the option to renew the listing and pay another 20 cents. If you do sell your item, you can relist the product again if you have more stock for another 20 cents to relist. 

The listings page you complete on Etsy is easy to do and pretty self-explanatory but these are a few tips that I have picked up as I have gone along.

Product Titles: You need to use keyword strings. You get 140 characters to use, and it is recommended to use the first 50-60 characters for your main information as this is what Google uses and what is shown to buyers using mobile devices. You don’t have to repeat the same keywords, try to use as many ways of describing your product as possible. Use commas between each keyword phrase to make it easier for buyers to read. 

Think about what a buyer would search for if they were browsing Etsy and you want them to find your product. Do some research by opening Etsy.com in a browser and have a go at searching for similar items to those that you are going to list. As you type Etsy will give you helpful suggestions of keyword phrases. 

Top Tip: Etsy is almost constantly making some changes to their algorithm and although you get 140 characters, you can now write shorter titles that are more buyer friendly not just stuffed with keyword phrases. Do some experimenting with short titles and long ones to see which work best for you. 

Product Descriptions: Google crawls the full description but Etsy only reads first 150 characters which is the First Line. So make this count and don't just copy and paste your title. 

You can use the keywords from your product titles but don't just stuff them all at the start because it wouldn't make a lot of sense as an actual products description. Google crawls this whole section of your listing so you need your product description to be a more detailed account of what the product is. What it is made from. Who it is suitable for? You get the idea.  

When you go on any website to buy an item you want to know more about it before you press the buy now or add to cart. It is also useful in the product description to link to other products from your Etsy shop. As in, ‘You might also like X’ and then copy and paste the Etsy URL of your other products. Obviously if you're just starting out you may not have these other URLs yet but just keep it in mind that you can go back through posts once you're a bit more established and add these in.

Top Tip: The item description is hidden on mobile devices so a lot of buyers will not know to click to open up a new section, sadly it is not an obvious dropdown link to click, so if you have vital information that you were not able to get into the title then it might be worth making one of the photo slots a text image you can do this easily in Canva, but bear in mind not all buyers will look at all listing photos either. 

Product Tags: Do not to use single words here. You need keyword phrases. Again you need to think of phrases that a buyer might be typing into the search bar of Etsy. You need to fill out 13 tags and it is advisable not to repeat words I find this part the most difficult to do. Trying to find 13 different ways to describe the item with no repeats. 

Tags Ideas for Etsy

Who is it for?

What is the main colour?

What method or technique did you use to make it?

What size is it?

What style is it?

What is the main material?

Does the item feature imagery or motifs?

Top Tip: Search for similar listings on Etsy, scroll down the product page and look at ‘related to’ for tag ideas too.

Fill in Attributes: Giving your listing certain attributes will help your listing be found when users search Etsy for products. However, only fill in attributes if they are relevant to your product. For the colour attribute you can select the closest colour if the one you want is not listed, but for the occasion and celebration only select these if your product fits that theme EXACTLY. For example, my Adventure Accessories Hiking Mitts could be given as a Christmas present, but I would only select the Christmas attribute if my mitts had Santa on them or a Christmas tree motif.

If you are not sure, it will be best to leave the attribute blank rather than selecting something that is not relevant.

Top Tip: Do not copy attributes into your tags as they act as extra tags anyway, so you do not want to repeat them. 


Product Photography: Your products need to have the best photography possible. This is the showcase of your lovingly handmade item. We live in a visual world and like it or not people will judge your product on the picture first. Then they will read the title and possibly then the description. If you can afford a professional photo shoot, do it. It is worth the investment. You get top quality photos of your products that you can use for social media, Pinterest, and anywhere else you want to show off your items.

Take lots of angle and show detail, but the first photo must be EXACTLY what the buyer will receive so don't include group shots or props in this one. 

Top Tip: Take images as if there were no written descriptions available and write your descriptions as if there were no photos.


Fill Out The Rest Of Your Shop.

Shop Title

Go to your shop Settings, click on Info & Appearance and fill out your Shop Title. This is a short description for your Brand also known as a Tag Line. Google crawls this so make it count. When I first started I didn't know this nugget of information and my shop title was 'Craft, Create, Connect'. Now that is useless. It doesn't describe my brand at all. Buyers and Goggle have no idea what I am selling. My tag is now 'Handmade Eco Gifts, Crochet Patterns & Craft Kits because that is what I sell. 

Shop Icon

Create a nice logo for your shop icon or a lovely picture of yourself or main product. You can do this for free in Canva.com.

Shop Announcement

This is a useful space for important announcements. Keep it short and simple as only the first two lines actually show to buyers. There is a Read More link but very few people will actually ever click or even see this. 

About Section & Policies

Add your shop members. First is yourself and a brief bio, then list anyone that helps you manage your shop or your production partners if you outsource. 

Your Story and Polices. These must be filled in. Use as much detail as possible and if you are selling in the EU you MUST display your home address. Also make sure you are aware of and comply with GDPR and Online Selling Rules and consumers right to return. Google these for more information. 

Banner Image

Add a beautiful banner image that showcases your small shop. You can create one for free on Canva.com which has lots of lovely templates or blank ones to create your own.

Prices - Don’t undersell yourself

The general rule I have seen is to work out what it cost you to make - materials and your time, then x2 for wholesale and x4 for retail.  If your retail comes out high you can use x3. Using x3 can also work for sale prices too if your standard prices are x4.


Decide if you are going to offer free shipping or charge for is separately and then set up Delivery Profiles in your shop settings and chose which countries you are going to ship to and how much to charge or set them as Free. 

Vacation Mode vs Extending Shipping Times

So, you have worked really hard on setting up your Etsy store and now you need a break. Do you put your store into holiday/vacation mode or do you simply extend your processing and shipping/delivery profiles? This really comes down to personal preference and how long you intend to be away. If it is only for a long weekend or up to a week then try extended shipping times. If it is longer than a week go for holiday mode. 

Top Tip: If you do choose holiday/vacation mode then a few days to 1 week before you are ready to come back, open again but with extended processing and shipping times. That way you can build up visits and views and be ready to be back in full production when you are ready to return.

Bonus Top Tip: Whichever one of these you choose to be sure you make it clear you are taking a break in your shop announcement and/or banner image. DO NOT EVER advertise the fact that you are away on a holiday away from your house. You simply need to say that you are taking some time out or you are closed for orders temporarily.

Etsy Seller Fees

I am in the UK and this is what I pay. If you are in the United States your fees are less as you don't pay VAT and if you are in another country that does pay VAT or other taxes you can check out the the handbook links below. The selling fees on Etsy are in my opinion complicated to work out. There are various fee/profit calculator apps and I will only give a brief overview of fees here with a link to the Etsy Handbook for you to read and understand the Fee Structure better and Payment Processing Fees for your country.

Listing Fee £0.16 plus vat, 

Transaction Fee 6.50% plus vat (going up to 7.5%),

Payment Processing 4% + £0.20 plus vat, 

Regulatory operating fee 0.32% plus VAT,

Once all that adds up fees works out on average 18-20%  for me so you need to factor this into your pricing.

Free Checklist Etsy 101


If you are still with me and have read all the top tips above, or if you skipped TLDR: Then I am happy you are here and not offended if you skipped. We are all busy.

So if you are ready to get stuck in and selling on Etsy here is a free checklist for you to hep get you started and you can also get 40 free listings to start you off with my referral link: Get 40 Free Listings 

Top Tip: The referral link only works from a browser you cannot set up your shop from the Etsy App. Use a laptop, table or your phone's web browser to get your 40 free listings. 

You can also pin the image below to read later and come back to this post anytime you need to in the future, as well as sharing the love for other creatives.