Friday, 3 February 2017

Article: Tips for Starting Your Etsy Store

I am a massive advocate of Etsy, both as a buyer and a seller.

It satisfies a particular craving for 'being the only one who has it' while also getting things now now now! (Thanks to the instant digital download element of online trading). Of course it has it’s pro’s and con’s but for me, selling a handmade item and learning how to set up and run a small business, Etsy was the perfect fit.

I started my Etsy shop in March 2015 and it has steadily gathered momentum and continues to be my biggest source of new traffic and sales. I'm now the stage of setting up the infrastructure needed to eventually - hopefully - move away from Etsy in the long term, and direct customers towards my own e-commerce store.

I can speak from experience that it’s really not the ‘running’ of an Etsy store that is the difficult part, it’s the initial stages of understanding what Etsy is and how your store fits within it.

To help you learn this before you get going I’m going to share some of the points that have helped me create a successful Etsy shop. Fair warning - to the seasoned Etsy seller this will all be very common sense, but if you are just starting out, or are looking for advice on how to improve your fledgling store, you might find a helpful nugget of information.

So here goes, in no particular order:

1. Playing the Name Game

Ok, so you need to name your empire. Basically, I have learned that the end game of naming a business is to avoiding getting all Dave Grohl. He once said if he knew the Foo Fighters were going to last longer than a month and a half, he would have called them something else. His exact words were “the dumbest band name ever”. Poor Davey.

There are a surprising number of 'Crying Dave Grohl' images on Grand Ol' Google!

When you set up your Etsy store, your store name is one of the first things you'll be asked and in the excitement of getting started you can easily make a hasty decision. Is it something that rolls off the tongue? Would you happy for it to be on a business card? Is the name even available (Etsy does not allow duplicate store names)?

What's more, does the name make sense? You might think ‘duh’ but hear me out. I started my business as SpruceXstitch, assuming all my customers would be cross stitch fans and they would automatically understand that ‘xstitch’ equals ‘cross stitch’. Which worked out fine at the beginning. Then I started doing craft markets and interacting with people face to face and I realised, actually, there’s a whole other subsection of gift-buying customers who have no idea what ‘xstitch’ means and I could see it on their darling confused little faces.

Also, I had the thought ‘what if I wanted to expand one day and create something other than cross stitch?’ I had boxed myself into a niche corner in the first step of the business set-up process – the name. I recently rebranded to a more generic title and while it wasn’t the end of the world, I’d much prefer to be creating new products instead of changing SEO tags on a Sunday afternoon.

One more piece of advice, if you have a spare $13 – buy the domain!!! When your Etsy store ‘Cheeky Chubbas Chuckle Hut’ becomes huge, you’ll be kicking yourself that someone else picked up before you did. By the way, yes that domain IS available and at bargain price of $4. You are welcome.

Its just sitting there, waiting for you.

2. The Big Picture

You’ll see this advice everywhere – your pictures and photos are your Etsy store's biggest asset.

Customers will only buy if they can see or touch an item and since the touching option is out, you need to make your pictures worth seeing. Make them SPECTACULAR. I never post a picture on Etsy or on any social media without editing it – my go-to is to increase the brightness and the contrast of every photo I take. I am no Annie Leibovitz but my advice is to pick a filter or a style of editing, and be consistent. If you like the Valencia filter then, by golly, Valenica it up! Use it on everything! Go hard or go home – just be consistent.

Nothing fancy - just a bit of lightening and contrasting, and this is usually enough to show my products at their best, while also matching the 'bright and modern' theme of my store.

3. it's All ‘About You’

It really is. You are very special. And special people fill out every part of their online profiles!!! 

I don’t know about you, but if I see an ‘About Me’ section that hasn’t been filled out, I immediately think “Ok well clearly you are some kind of cyber terrorist’ and my red flags start waving. Is that too dramatic? Doesn’t matter YOU'VE LOST THE SALE. Fill everything out. 

Handmade selling is so personal so put your personality into it. Make your ‘About Me’ section magical for your customers! Put pictures of your workspace, pictures of you all sweaty and dusty and barefooted and slaving away over their next purchase. Show them your crafting journey and make them want to join you on it.

The aim is to grab people's interest and if they don’t buy right away (on average, online shoppers will visit three stores before making their purchase), hopefully they will enjoy your pictures so much that they will follow your social media accounts and you can continue to influence them. 

Etsy are very clever in the way they have designed their site –  there are 1.6 million Etsy stores and it is purposefully very difficult to distinguish the difference between one Etsy shop and another (ever heard people say ‘I got it from Etsy’, instead of ‘I got it from Cheeky Chubbas on Etsy'? Etsy like it that way.) 

So it's up to you - and only you - to distinguish yourself as much as possible.

4. Your Avatar

Your Etsy avatar. I have no scientific evidence to back this up, but make it a picture of you. Not your logo, not a picture of your best selling item. Not even a picture of your bunny, because really, what kind of managerial experience does he have? Unless he recently graduated from the MBA program at Yale, skip the pet portraits.

I always feel a tad uneasy when a seller doesn’t show their face (who are you, faceless cretin?) So simply put, just upload a nice picture of yourself smiling.  A friendly, real, non-cretinish person.

5. Take a breather

A common problem with starting an Etsy shop is the urge to copy other stores. We see a successful shop and we love the look of it and the temptation to create a carbon copy can be really strong. Then we see another shop with a completely different style and we like that too, and soon enough our brains are full of ideas and possibilities. It’s easy to slip into overload.

Two weeks after I started my shop, I had so many ideas and new information whirring around in my head that I wasn’t sleeping at night. I couldn’t shut down my brain. This tends to be a typical trait of creative souls, I’m assuming this because creativity = insomnia = sleep deprivation = madness = Da Vinci, etc. etc. 

So then - I went to Europe on vacation. For a month (oh, BRAG!).

See. I told you I went to Europe. Did I mention I went to Europe?

And it was actually excellent for my shop because I had to no access to Etsy, just a notepad and pen, so I was forced to spend a chunk of time researching, brainstorming ideas, creating new patterns and really nailing down the type of business I wanted to run. This helped me put my own unique style on my products, which helped me to better understand my brand.

If you copy someone else’s style, you may achieve some initial success but it’s not a long-term game plan because there is a 100% chance that you will run out of inspiration. Don’t be one of ‘those people’ who rip off Dr Seuss instead of coming up with their own designs. You are creative and there will always be people who enjoy your products if you create them with integrity, transparency and love.

So this is clearly not a complete guide of everything there is to know about the Etsy set-up process. These are just some of the most important tips that I've discovered in my Etsy journey. If you can spend a little extra time making sure these five areas of your set up are really top notch, you are well on the road to creating your own thriving Etsy store.


Elise is the owner of Spruce Craft Co. which aims to inspire a new generation of cross stitchers. She designs modern cross stitch patterns and kits and can be found at and Etsy.

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Finished: Watercolour Eyes

I finally finished one of my favourite patterns - 'Watercolour Eyes'. Take a took at the photos below!
I mounted the finished design on thick foam board, and propped it up on a mini easel.

This pattern is 60 colours but since it's completely made up of whole stitches (no messy half and quarter stitches) it was surprisingly easy. The key is just keeping the cotton organised - this is not something I have mastered yet.
Me - providing photographic proof that I finished!!

If you are up for a challenge, you can get this pattern right here. Good luck!!

WIP: The Idea

22 months ago, during the in-between ‘funemployement’ phase of finishing university and starting full-time work, I started playing around on Etsy.

I don’t know what possessed me, but I simply had to have my own shop. For two weeks I experimented with making cushions but that just created one gigantic mess in the apartment while not really holding my interest all that long. I also wasn’t very good at it, so I spent most of the time enviously browsing other peoples Etsy shops and trying to look for an idea that I could steal *ahem* ‘lovingly imitate’. I think “The Idea” might be the most difficult stage in the side hustle quest. Once you have your perfect ‘Idea”, everything else should theoretically fall into place and for me, it 100% did.

Old-lady crafts and I go together like Kim and Kanye (that could be a very dated reference very soon, but hey, I’m not a writer!) and I’m grateful everyday for being able to create a business out of something I enjoy doing so much.

This is a PDF downloadable pattern called ‘Watercolour Eyes’ — 60 colours and its soooooo close to being finished. Argh. Just finish it Elise.

One of the most surprising things I have learned so far — people like BUYING! When I used to buy cross stitch patterns, my process was very simple — buy a pattern, purchase the equipment, complete the design, talk about how I’m going to get it framed, not get it framed, and repeat steps one through six.

But clearly I was doing it all wrong — because I’ve witnessed some serious chart-stashing! The average is 2 charts at a time, but I’ve had customers buy 10 or 13! In one go!!! And my first impression was … HAVE YOU PEOPLE GONE MAD?? (Elaine Benis reference right there.) How many lifetimes will it take to finish these patterns? Do you have jobs? People to take care of? But I’ve realised now that people like options, they like to have their little stash of projects that they can choose from depending on their mood. I get that. I respect that. 

I get asked for ‘beginners’ kits frequently at markets, so I’m experimenting with 11 count aida fabric. Simple designs which are just a tad easier to create. It’s my first time using 11 count and so far, so good!

Because now I’m one of you people. I now have a ‘rotation’. I came across this term recently and I love it — I no longer have a stack of projects that I’ve started and not finished, I simply have many projects in my ‘rotation’. Rotation — it’s a thing.

Another popular PDF download pattern called ‘Umbrella Man’. This has alot of confetti but I am a self-confessed confetti lover so I don’t mind.

So the purpose of this blog is to share my rambles but also keep any interested parties updated about the projects in my ‘rotation’. Because cross stitch isn’t so much about the finished project, but about enjoying the process. And I’d love if you shared your rotation too, so please feel free to post some pics in the comments section. Lets embrace, nuture and build our rotations together!

This is one of my latest kits “Flamingo Party” — this launched at the Canberra Handmade Market in December 2016 and then promptly sold out. Plenty of flamingos in stock now!

Elise is the owner of Spruce Craft Co. which aims to inspire a new generation of cross stitchers. She designs modern cross stitch patterns and kits and can be found at and Etsy. Cover image: Flowerpot Kit or PDF download