Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Selling on Etsy

Ah, Etsy! I could just spend hours and hours at Etsy. Heck, I have. All the handmade goods... so many amazing finds there.

The first thing you should know about selling anything - anything at all - is you might as well register for a business license and a federal tax ID number. It doesn't matter if you're a hobbyist, or hoping to sell huge volumes, just register. Look into your local state Department of Licensing to find out what you need to do. Be smart; keep it legal. Fees for licenses are usually small - if any at all. Etsy itself doesn't have a policy on having a business license to sell, but it's more of an honour-system: you do need to follow your state laws. Read into them. It's so much better for you in the long run if you just CYA!

When it comes to taxes, it's going to vary from state to state. I found several good wesbites that helped me out - I'm in one of the weird states for taxes, WA - but I'm going to make it a point to give the IRS a call at the beginning of my vacation next week to make sure I'm clear on some things. There is never any harm in doing this; they're very willing to help you out at the beginning of your venture - wouldn't you rather deal with them right now and have them answer those pressing questions than next year around this time? That's right. Give them a call if it all seems overwhelming.

For myself, from the way I understand it, as long as my stuff is going out of state, I'm good - but if anyone in my own state buys from me, I need to be sure it's being taxed properly. Here's a handy calculator link, for those of you living in WA state. As I said, I'll be calling for any clarification. It also never hurts to ask folks you know who are local business owners themselves - they will have a wealth of tax information!

Is that boring enough for you? Geeeeez, let's get to some fun stuff!

Hooray! You have items you can sell! What to do? Sign up for an account at Etsy! Make sure to get a lot of cool pictures of your merchandise - you'll need to show it off if you want people to buy it. I first started out with pictures that had bad lighting, poor quality shots... bleh.

Everything looked yellow. My soaps aren't yellow! Unless they are lemon... but I digress. I think I have improved since those first dark, yellowy pictures - I hope! The way I fancied up my listings was... well, pretty cheap. It was under $10, all said and done. I bought a couple of Reveal lightbulbs for my old, cheap, existing lamp. When I go to take a picture, I have the lamp - shade off - near my soap. This helped eliminate the yellow-y tone to my pictures that the "soft" kitchen lighting was casting on my soap.
Another concern for me was uneven or boring backgrounds. Yawn, soap on my kitchen counter. Yawn, soap on a piece of white paper. So, off I trudged back to JoAnn Fabrics, who, far as I can tell, doesn't even sell soap making supplies at any of my nearby stores (they do still sell some stuff online, though) to browse through their scrapbooking paper selection. They had individual 12" x 12" paper for 25-50 cents apiece. Sold! I bought a variety of designs, took my stack home, and started taking pictures of my soaps by setting them on the designed paper on top of my dryer, pointing the Reveal bulb at them, and snapping the pic:

No, they're not works of photographic genius, but they sure look a whole lot better than: Yay. Soap. On cardboard. YAWN.

Okay, so now you have your supercool, snazzy pictures. People will want to buy these babies! Sign up for Etsy, and start by adding an item. It will walk you through each and every step, no worries here. Make sure you can think of a brief description for each item. As an aspiring writer... I HAVE THE HARDEST TIME WITH THAT PART! I feel really funny trying to convince people to buy my stuff. Usually, I'm a much better writer when I want to explain things, or describe a feeling, a thought, an experience. But to sell things? I'm much better on my feet and in person. I can rocket a sales pitch that would rock your world! But to type it out? And leave out all the jargon and the back and forth and the talk about the weather and the how's your wife and kids? Sigh. But maybe that's just me. :D

So anyway, Etsy will walk you through the entire process, you'll come to a page where you can tag your item with keywords (so folks can find your cool stuff), upload your photos (make sure they're not too small - I tend not to resize mine at all, so people can get a good gander at the full size image, and they seem not to have a problem with too large - but too small means stretched and grainy and it just won't look good), set your prices, list how many you have in stock, all that good stuff.

Click Finish and - eep! - there it is! Your first item up for sale! Lather, rinse, repeat. You'll be an old pro in no time. Once you've got some items up for sale and a little backstock, purchase a showcase slot - that's at the very bottom, left hand corner under "Promote" when you're signed in - it's about $7 to book under your category, and it increases your visibility.

Etsy has an awesome community and forums where you can get help for just about anything you need. The people are quite friendly and helpful in my experiences thus far.

So get out there! It's not too difficult - it does take a bit of time to do it all legal and kosher - but it's so worth it.

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