Etsy HomepageIn 2013 Etsy sellers did 895 million dollars in sales.

If you're ready to begin selling your handmade crafts online, Etsy's marketplace is one of the most exciting websites to start. It's the perfect venue for selling your crafts without leaving home; but you must be dedicated to doing it right. You worked hard to master your art and craft skills, It will take that same level of dedication to learn how to sell on Etsy and develop your own personal success story.

Etsy is a big deal for crafters. As the 2013 report, "Redefining Entrepreneurship: Etsy Seller's Economic Impact," explains, a million worldwide Etsy sellers did 895 million dollars in sales. Those are some incredible sales statistics, especially when you think of them as dollars generated by lone crafters like you. The numbers should remind you of your potential for success. They should also bring to mind these two important facts:

  1. Etsy is a great place to sell your handcrafted items.
  2. With so many sellers, you'll have to do something to stand out from the crowd.

Anyone can be an Etsy marketing success story. Their website is big enough to include you and whatever you create, but it's more than just opening up a shop and hoping for the best. From the moment you make a decision to sell your crafts online, you'll have to work a plan to get your business up and running and continue those efforts to keep your shop profitable.

Here are five key steps to help you get started selling on Etsy:

Step 1: Produce unique crafts that stand out from the pack

Woman crafting at kitchen tableAnyone can make money selling crafts, even you!

What is your craft? Does it meet an everyday need? Your necklace shaped like the state of Colorado might be a big hit at your local high school craft show, but what will the rest of the world think? These are just a few of the questions you'll have to ask and answer if you want your online craft shop to thrive.

Etsy's shopkeepers sell for a variety of reasons, but mostly because people want or need what they have to sell. To figure out which craft items are best for you and your shop, you have to do the research. Fortunately there are many crafters who are willing to share what they know. Start with "Make Money From The Kitchen Table By Selling Crafts," a list that will help you identify what to sell on Etsy.

Do your own research

Get hands-on with your research by visiting Etsy.com. You can register for an account but you don't have to commit to setting up a shop right away. You'll have access to seller forums, blogs, and insider information on how to start an Etsy business. You can check out ideas for shop layouts and designs and have a start date affiliated with your account. Most importantly, you can conduct research to see if there is a market for your craft.

  • Search for pet accessories, or tea cozies, or whatever you're thinking about selling
  • Search "trending" crafts in your category.
  • Click on a link to a seller's shop to read their sales statistics and customer reviews.
  • Look at crafts similar to yours to see what type, color, or style is selling.
  • Check out photos and listings to see how crafters sell what they sell.

Your research might make you feel confident that your craft is a unique offering. It's also possible that it might lead to a craft choice you hadn't considered before. Once you've made a decision and opened your shop, continue reviewing and updating your craft choice to make sure it works for you.

Step 2: Find your theme

Woman with retro 80s styleIf you are the seller who makes awesome 80's-themed wrist cuffs instead of plain old one-color bracelets, buyers won't want to miss your shop.

Your quest doesn't end once you've decided what to sell on Etsy. With so many shops selling the same or similar crafts, you must establish your brand as something that's unique from everything else. One of the best ways to do that is with a theme.

Think of a theme as the ideas or concepts you have in mind each time you sit down to create. If you are the seller who makes awesome 80's-themed wrist cuffs instead of plain old one-color bracelets, buyers won't want to miss your shop. You can create themed crafts based on a character you designed, or offer items simply or generically as "organic" or "upcycled."

Create your craft, label it, market it, and ship it out with your theme in mind. Your shop and listings should actively represent your theme from the name to the color scheme. Your theme should stand out enough that people think about it when it's time to buy a unique item.

Step 3: Know thy customer

Have you ever noticed how websites just happen to have ads that offer the exact product for which you've been searching? Of course it's not a coincidence. Search engines track your online search habits because it allows businesses to put the products you want directly in your online path. It sounds a little creepy, but as you decide how to start your Etsy business, you will find that it makes good business sense to know who your customers are.

If you don't have the budget to target your customers based on their search history (you could actually do that if you wanted to), you'll have to figure it out the old fashioned way. The good news is that you might already have enough information to do it.

Identifying your ideal customer

Target Your Customers

If you have a sales track record from local or regional craft events, you'll need only think about your past sales to answer a few questions about your ideal customer.

  • Who buys your crafts--male, female, young, old?
  • What is their economic standing--middle, upper, lower class?
  • Where do they live--urban, suburban, apartment, condo, single-family home?
  • What crafts do they like? Why?
  • How much do they spend?
  • Do they buy for gifts or for themselves?
  • Do they return to buy again?

This list is just a start, but it should give you an idea of the type of information you need to evaluate your customer base. Once you have profiled your target market, it's easier to decide what crafts to make, what materials to use, how to price your finished items and how to describe them. Targeting your market might even help you decide which theme is right for you and your crafts.

For more information on the concept, check out the article, "How to Identify Your Target Audience." It's published on the Intuit/Quickbooks website and isn't craft specific, but it shows that the idea is an important concept for all businesses.

Step 4: Get the word out

With one million sellers and so much buzz, customers come to Etsy's craft marketplace every day. To make sure that some of them visit your little shop, you have to let them know that you're there. That means getting the word out however you can.

A dedicated website can funnel potential customers directly to your shop. Your site can act as an introduction to you and your work. Your website can pre-qualify customers. When they click on your link it can bring them directly to your shop before other Etsy crafters have the opportunity to seduce them away.

Social media can help

Social Media Icons on a PhonePhoto Courtesy Twin Design / Shutterstock.com

You'll find a major Etsy presence on Facebook, Google+, Linkedin, Twitter, and Pinterest. All of these sites offer opportunities to set up a page that' specifically markets you and your crafts. On Instagram and Graftgawker you can post photos of your work, links, and information to your followers. There are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Social media is opt-in. People must "like" or "follow" you to receive your posts.
  • Twitter followers get so many messages, they might not notice your links.
  • The point of social media is to be social, not necessarily to sell. You have to offer value-added information and a good social experience in addition to sales links.
  • You'll need an analytics account to measure your social media effectiveness.

Traditional business methods

When you're getting the word out about your shop, don't neglect traditional business methods. Add your shop link to your business card, flyers, or other print media. Tell art and craft show customers that you're on Etsy. If they've purchased from you before, they are likely to come looking for you online to do it again.

Step 5: Optimize those tags!

If the idea of search engine optimization is too much to think about, tagging is a simple way to get started. When you list your items on Etsy, you are given the opportunity to set the tags that will help external and internal search engines identify your craft as an item a customer is looking for. To make the most of this opportunity, think before you tag.

  • Don't use tags that customers would never look for.
  • Use the Google Adwords search function. It can tell you the most searched-for keywords.
  • Use accurate tags so that when a customer clicks on your link, they will find what they were actually looking for.
  • Be tag-specific enough to give your craft item a chance to be discovered.

The more information you learn about how to start an Etsy business, the easier it will be for you to succeed as an online shopkeeper. For more information, check out the Etsy Seller Handbook Archive for articles that cover just about anything you need to know.