the maze that is etsy

If you’ve never purchased anything off of Etsy before, I suggest you browse around and buy a few things, just so you know how the process works. It can be confusing the first time around, so knowing the ropes before you have customers buying from you can be helpful. You have to sign-up for an account, even if you just want to buy one thing. There is much controversy about this requirement since it turns quite a few potential buyers away from the site. Many don’t want to take the time to create an account before purchasing, even though this is a requirement on many online stores. Personally, how could you not want to create an account to purchase something, knowing there are so many wonderful things for you and to give as gifts.

You also have to sign-up to be a seller (yes, there’s another step before you can start selling). I strongly suggest that you read the Terms of Use in full, as well as the other helpful guides that Etsy currently offers in their help section. Basically, you can only sell goods that have been HANDMADE by YOU. This means… something you’ve ‘embellished’, up-cycled, deconstructed and made into something else, or something that’s been entirely created by you. The only other exceptions are Vintage and Supplies. You can sell vintage items as long as they are 20 years old or older. You can also sell items that you have not made by hand by deeming them supplies. Many times these are things like beads, buttons, yarn, etc. Just make sure that when you list an item… you put it under the correct category and tag the item correctly. Not following this rule can get your store flagged and even closed in some cases.

Okay, so now that you’re a registered seller, time to set up shop. Be sure to fill out your profile, shop announcement, and store policies; upload your banner and avatar and start creating listings. Below are all things you should know about as you open your store to the public.


You can put as much or as little info here as you want. I personally like to read a seller’s profile while I’m looking at their store and see what kind of a personality they have. Also, this is a great place to post links to your blog and business email address, as well as promote other etsy sellers (usually friends/family)

Store Policies

Every store gets to have their own policies on shipping, returns, custom orders, etc… as long as they don’t conflict with Etsy’s policies. Think about what you want to offer before you write anything in this section. And please don’t leave this section blank. It is useful to buyers to see how you stand on certain issues before they purchase something. Things like… how you ship your items, whether you are willing to gift-wrap and send directly to the gift’s recipient, what happens if their package gets lost in the mail or if someone wants to return an item. Look at some of the larger shops on etsy and see what their store policies are. Don’t copy them word for word, but there’s no harm in having similar views/rules about things.

Shop Announcement

This is a great place to announce your upcoming vacation, any sales or promotions, and another place to post a link to your blog or your website.

Item Description

As you write your item description, remember that no one can feel, smell, taste, (hear?) what you're trying to sell. It's hard to sell something when your customer can't physically hold it in their hand. That's why you must be descriptive in your listing. Exact measurements, colors, textures, weight, attributes, etc must be addressed in this section if you want to sell this thing you have made with your own two hands. It also doesn't hurt to be humorous or give other uses/ideas for this item, just don't get too carried away. (ps... I would suggest writing your descriptions in word and copy/paste-ing them... makes life easier)


This feature allows buyers to contact you with a request for a custom item. You can turn this feature on and off from your control panel in your store. (in case you're too swamped to take custom orders) They list what they want, time it needs to be completed in, price, etc and it comes to you for approval. You can change any of the terms and send it back to the buyer for their approval. Once everything has been agreed upon and accepted, you create the custom item, upload photos, invoice the customer through paypal (or however you want to get payment), and gets listed in your sold items. Others can also click on your Alchemy page to see what other custom items you have created for others.

There is also an Alchemy button on the top header. This is where buyers list what custom item they want made, and you as a seller can submit a bid to make the said item. The buyer than accepts or rejects your bid, and the process is the same as above.


It is important to leave feedback. It helps others to know how you conduct business. Did you pay on time? Were you easy to work with? Was the item you received as described in their store? Anything can be addressed in your feedback, and I think it’s important for both parties to leave appropriate feedback after a transaction has been completed.


When you list a new item, you have the option to add up to 14 tags onto your listing. These are keywords to help your buyer find what their looking for. Be sure that either handmade, vintage or supply is the first tag (and that it’s the appropriate one!). Use up all of your tags by describing the colors, materials used, style, etc. Don’t mis-tag an item just to get it in a different category though. Buyers will just be annoyed that it's in the wrong place. Also, think about how you would search for this particular item if you were looking for something like similar. That will help you in the tagging process.


Etsy has a great feature when you list an item that allows you to create and choose a shipping profile. It allows you to set up shipping prices for as many places as you would like. I suggest making a shipping profile for each different type of item you sell, so that when you need to list a new, similar item… you don’t have to add in all the info all over again. 

These are the features that I think are most important when you are setting up your shop. There are many, many others that I will talk about in the future... but these should be your main concern right now. You can check out the others as you're waiting patiently for your first sale :) If you have any questions on anything mentioned above, please feel free to contact me. I am a fairly nice person after 9 am, I don't bite, and I will try to answer any questions you might have. 

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