How to Successfully Make Money on Etsy

The following article was originally written for Fresh U, an online publication written for college freshmen, by college freshmen. I currently work as the Senior Editor with Fresh U.

College is great, and it comes with a lot of positives: independence, your own space, and life-long friends, just to name a few. With the ups, though, also come the downs, and between the stress, sleepless nights, and homesickness experienced during the school year, there’s one thing that ultimately stands out for students: we’re poor as hell. College students could work a job (I do) or also have side-jobs (I have these too), but no matter what, you always find yourself struggling to get just enough quarters to do laundry or to buy another box of Ramen to live off of until your next paycheck.

One way to put more money into your pocket as a college student is by running your own business–though I like to think of it more as a “mini-business.” Etsy is a great platform to sell your items to other people in order to make some extra cash, and it takes just a little extra effort (and cash) to run an Etsy shop. Since I’ve been successfully selling my things for a little over a year now, and have had an Etsy shop since this past winter, I figured I’d give my answers to some of the most common questions someone might have about opening an Etsy shop, and how to do it.

What should I sell?

Even though Etsy is primarily a place to sell handmade objects, you’re able to sell literally anything on the website. Things I’ve found to be particularly successful (that aren’t handmade objects) tend to be vintage items, records, and lightly used clothes/accessories.

If you have a particular craft, this is your chance to shine. I knit, so I sell knit goods on Etsy, but this is a great place for anyone of any craft–crochet, sewing, calligraphy, woodworking, jewelry, digital art/prints, photography, etc. I’ve had friends sell handmade dreamcatchers, their photos printed on greeting cards, calligraphy on canvas, and stickers for planners. Everyone can be crafty, and you can sell literally anything on Etsy.

How much does it cost?

A lot of outsiders don’t know that it actually costs money for the sellers to list items to sell in their shop–this cost is so low, though, that it hardly matters. It only costs twenty cents to list something in your Etsy shop, and you only have to pay that every three months–or every time you sell the item.

It works like this: you can list as many items at a time as you want, but for every time you list something, you have to pay twenty cents. If that item sells, its listing is removed from the public eye and you have to pay again for it to be available for the public to see–and purchase. If the item doesn’t sell after three months, though, the listing is taken down until you pay for it to be relisted (twenty cents). You can also set it up to  have your items automatically relisted when they’re sold or expire–Etsy will just draw directly from your bank account.

What are the best advertising strategies on Etsy?

In my experience so far, there are four things that really help you sell your items on Etsy: pictures, discount codes, customers, and social media.

1. Upload multiple, high-quality images of your product(s).

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Mia Renee Cole

Regardless of what you title the listing, potential customers are going to be looking at the image first, and making decisions from there. So it’s super important to have a great display picture, with multiple other, detailed pictures following. I would suggest using a high-quality camera (or an iPhone–anything that can focus well on detail), and taking the pictures in good lighting with a good background. These few tips help your images–and shop–look more professional, and will have more potential customers clicking on your items.

2. Create discount codes.

On Etsy, you are also able to create discount codes for your shop. Discounts are a great way to get more people purchasing from you. Whereas giving discounts to people may be daunting at first, with a new shop, creating a discount code (and advertising it) will bring more people to your shop which will help with word-of-mouth advertisement for your shop. For instance, since knit goods aren’t super popular in the summer, I’ve created a discount code for all of my items this summer to encourage more people to buy. I also have a special discount code for students at my school.

3. Use customers/friends and family to your advantage.

Customers are essential to creating a good image for your shop. Whenever I mail items to customers, I always write them a note, encouraging them to upload a picture of them wearing their new item on social media, and tagging me in it. This is a great way to spread the word about your new shop. Friends and family also come in handy for this, because they’re usually easily persuaded and willing to help you out.

4. Utilize social media.

Mia Renee Cole

As mentioned in the previous point, social media is a great platform to advertise your shop–and for free. Now, you can create Facebook ads for you items at a low cost, but if you’re looking to advertise for free, having a Facebook page, Twitter, Pinterest (especially if you’re selling handmade items), Instagram, etc. is a super productive way to encourage people to check out your shop and spark interest in what you’re selling.

What are some pro-tips when selling on Etsy?

There are a couple more things that I believe are crucial to successfully selling on Etsy.

1. Keep in mind what the customer wants.

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Mia Renee Cole

In business, you’re always selling to the customer–make sure you’re making what interests other people (and the more people it interests, the better!). One tip here would simply be this: be willing to try things outside of your comfort level. For instance, I had someone order a custom hat from me with bendable bunny ears on it. I had never made any hat with bendable ears–especially with long ears. I had no clue how I could do it, but I knew that with enough effort, I would be able to do it. And I did it, and it’s another unique item available on my shop now.

2. Take pictures of literally everything you make.

Because everything you make will be unique in its own little way, make sure you’re taking pictures of it before sending it off to its lucky new owner. This way you’ll always have plenty of pictures of different variations of your items for your shop. The more pictures, the better.

3. Personalize your packages.

Mia Renee Cole

Don’t just mail off your products without a final, personal touch from you. This is a great way to make your shop stand out and guarantee repeat business. Include a handwritten note, a free gift from your shop (a lot of sticker shops include “sampler” sheets), or an additional discount code for customers when they return. I also usually like to make the outside of the envelope look nice by using washi tape and stamps. This makes it stand out and exude excitement.

Whether you’re selling items made by you or things you’re simply just trying to get rid of, Etsy is a great platform to use for college students who want to make a little extra money without the hassle of running a time-consuming business.

Photo Courtesy of: Mia Renee Cole

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