I got an Etsy store where I offer Board Games accessories such as mini poker chips, dice jails, dice storage, game bit storage, and wargaming terrain. The store has been open for a few years since I got my laser cutter and started offering the Eclipse templates. However, it wasn’t until about a year ago that I started populating the store with more items and making it a serious business. In less than a year we have grown to a 100 items listed in the store – and there will be more to come shortly.
100 is an arbitrary number. However, it is a round number that helps us reflect on what it takes to list an item on Etsy. It is not as simple as it seems. There are some things that need to happen first, and at any point in the process, if one of these fail I need to find a new item:
- 3D or 2D Model – First I need to find or design a suitable model.
- Suitability – Then I need to figure out if it is useful or interesting. Will my target audience enjoy it? Is it good enough I would use it myself?
- License – Am I allowed to print and sell it? For items of my own design, the answer is easy. For items found on Thingiverse, for example, it is not so easy. Some designers allow free use of their hard work. Others do not, and they are entitled to compensation for the use of their designs. That is easier said than done, as each agreement is unique and may require a significant amount of communication and negotiation to obtain – not to mention the recordkeeping following the transactions.
- Test Prints – Many prints look nice on paper (or on the designer’s screen). But are they easy to print? Do they come out of a good quality? Do I anticipate a large failure rate? Do they take way too long to print? 3D Printing and Laser Cutting are not as easy as hitting the document print button and your paper printer spitting out that letter you have on the screen. There are hundreds of different settings that could be changed to get an optimal print that can be sold.
- Pricing – Is there an attractive price for it? Will it cover my costs? Will printing it takes valuable time from printing other designs that are more suitable for the operation?
- Taking Pictures – In this day and age, pictures are what sells – at least what attracts people to take a second look. I have seen many situations where I list an item with poor quality pictures and it doesn’t sell – but after I do improve the pictures, it sells very well. Taking pictures may also require doing test painting and post-processing on the parts – working them in the way the end user will do. Sometimes people are nice enough to send me pictures of the item as it is being used – those are the best.
- Create the Listing – People have short attention span. I need to create a listing that is found in search and describes everything the user needs to know about the item in as few words as possible. It needs to be clear and set the right expectations. It also needs to pay attention to technicalities such as search keywords and shipping cost calculation data.
- Market It – Adwords, Etsy promoted listings, facebook, word of mouth enticers, anything that will help.
- Evaluate Success – This may be one of the main reasons it took so long to reach this number of Etsy listings. When a listing doesn’t perform well (doesn’t sell, or sells well but it is not profitable to produce, for example) it needs to be taken down. At other times, it is easier to consolidate multiple listings into one – giving options to the user for variations within the same listing. Or the listing is best replaced with a similar, but better product. It is a process that needs to happen constantly.
These are the lessons learned. If you have an online operation, let me know your tips and tricks. If you are thinking of starting one, I hope this helps. And if you enjoy my products, I hope the new products will make you happy.