If you love vintage blogs you’ll know Jessica from Chronically Vintage (and if you don’t go check her out right now!) but you might not have realized that she launched her own vintage business on Etsy last year.
With millions of items being listed on Etsy each month competition can be fierce. How do customers find your products? How do you make sure your store gets traffic? Jessica has kindly agreed to share the Etsy tips and tricks which have helped her launch a successful vintage store.
I’d wanted to sell vintage online for quite some time before I launched my shop. I would love to have a bricks and mortar vintage shop as well, but there truly isn’t the customer base to support one in my small town (I like to joke with my husband that I’d be my shop’s only customer and that wouldn’t exactly be the most profitable business venture, now would it? :)). Perhaps that will happen for me if our life takes us to a larger city one day. We’ll see!
After a few important things/changes in my life led me to believe that doing so then was finally a realistic possibility, I decided at the very start of 2014 that this would be the year that I opened my shop. I spent countless hours reading books on Etsy, selling online, business in the 21st century and related topics, as well as tons of blog posts and Etsy’s posts/articles on their site (including in the wonderfully helpful Etsy Seller Handbook that they have there) to help really familiarize myself with the selling side of thing.
I’d been buying vintage online since 2004 (and offline for a few years before that) and am so really heavily involved with the vintage community, where you often hear people talk about their good and not-so-good online buying experiences, so between the two, I had a very solid idea of what not to do and just needed to learn more about some of the elements of what I did.
I began sourcing items well in advance of when my shop opened in May and launched, if I remember correctly, with around 85 listings. It wasn’t a ton, but it was a good cross sample of what I had available at the time. Initially I began with “just” vintage (and antique) jewelry, gloves, hats, and a little bit of ephemera, but quickly added clothing, purses, shoes, sewing (and knitting, etc) related items, and a few other fun vintage bits and bobs. These days my listing numbers tend to be in the 240 to 270 range, just depending on how many sales I get in a given week or month vs how many items I’m able to list in the same period.
I want to keep growing that number and to reach 300 for the first time, then on to 400, 500 and beyond, if possible. Quality, not just of the items themselves (and of course, also the customer service that I’m able to provide my wonderful customers with) tops quantity always for me though.
I’m severely chronically ill with more than a dozen different medical conditions and I love that selling on Etsy allows me the flexibility to work around my health issues. On my good days I can take photos, source items, create numerous listings, pack up orders and such, on the rougher ones I can select and edit (if needed – I don’t do much, usually just things like a little cropping or fixing the exposure, if needed) photos, maybe write a few listings, and other tasks that don’t call for the same degree of energy. On my extra bad days (of which there are plenty), I’ll usually take a breather and focus on things like promoting my shop on social media and maybe organizing any new merchandise I’ve recently acquired, if I’m well enough to get out of bed.
Creating a (flexible) schedule
From the very get-go, I found that for my lifestyle and circumstances, devoting one day a week to various tasks pertaining to my shop, such as taking photos on Monday, sorting and editing on Tuesday, packing up new orders on Wednesday, listing on Thursday, and sourcing on Saturday, worked far better for me than flitting around from one big job to another in the same day. Of course, if I wrap up one and I still feeling well enough to do another, I will, but I find that dedicating myself to one speeds up my productivity significantly and it is a tip that I would highly recommend to other sellers.
I’d also suggest that every seller creates a social media presence, if they don’t have one already. You don’t need to join every last site out there, but being active on at least a couple of the big ones will help establish a great rapport with new and existing customers alike, give you a place to connect with like-minded vintage loving folks, and also show the world more about your shop that just what they see when they’re on Etsy.
If at all possible, try to use the same names on your social media account as you do for your shop. You may just be one person listing in their spare time after the kids have gone to bed in the evenings or on the weekends, but it never hurts to crate a brand presence for your shop and having the same account names across all the social media sites (and possibly your blog, if you have one or create for your shop as well), is such a professional looking, wonderful approach to take.
Undoubtedly one of the most important aspects of any good Etsy listing is the photos. You don’t need to be the world’s best photographer or have tons of expensive gear to take great shots. Aim for a clean, lovely spot with a white or neutral background and try to shoot in either natural light or with a good photography lighting set-up indoors. My house, a small condo that is flanked by others on three sides and a hill on the fourth and don’t have very big windows, gets exceedingly little light, so I shoot all of my photos in our tiny basement with the use of a white box or white photographic backdrop, studio lights, flashes, and sometimes umbrellas and/or a soft box.
Both my husband and I are professional photographers (in a part-time capacity on top of our busy careers in other fields), so we’re fortunate to have this kind of gear to hand already, but you can start simpler with just a white box and/or backdrop and a good lighting set-up. The most economical option though is almost always natural lighting, so if you can avail of that, go for it! It helps to create crisp, lovely images and doesn’t usually involve a lot of equipment beyond your camera itself.
Take time when you’re shooting to pose your items in different ways. You want to accurately and clearly represent your item as best as possible (both with your photos and listing descriptions themselves. Ask yourself when you’re looking at an item, what would you like to know about it, what angles would you like to see? Address all these points with your photos and listing. If in doubt, show or say more rather than less. You don’t need to write a book for each listing, but many customers do enjoy a brief write-up about the item followed by specifics (like size, age, and very importantly, condition) for an item that they’re considering purchasing.
Offer worldwide shipping
Set your listings to include shipping to all locations (I live in Canada and usually set the shipping for US, UK, Australia, Canada, and “everywhere else”, which covers the rest of the world). This way sellers can decide on the spot if they want to order from you, instead of having to Etsy message you for a shipping quote. Yes, determining the shipping right off the bat when you’re creating the listing can take some time, but the more often you do it, the more you’ll quickly learn the price brackets for different types and sizes of orders going to different locations around the world, so you won’t have to look them up for similar items time and time again.
Try to offer low combined shipping rates as well, as this really helps guide people to buy two or more items from your shop at the same time. If you live in a country with reasonable shipping rates (sadly, not something I can say of Canada Post’s rates in most cases), consider offering a free shipping sale periodically or with orders over a certain dollar amount (such as $200). Who doesn’t love and feel more inclined to buy if they’re getting something for free?
Make sure you have your About and Policy pages set up for your shop, as well as a friendly greeting or message on your Etsy shop page. Be detailed here and let folks really get to know you, your shop, and your policies. Mention that you’re always available if customers have questions that aren’t covered there and that you stand behind your polices (for example, if you offer returns within a 14 day period, genuinely provide that service if someone asks to return something).
Be friendly and sweet when dealing with customers, even – especially, I might say – those who might not be in the best of moods. Never take abuse or deal with someone you perceive to be dangerous, of course, but most people, even when they’re being irate, can do a 180 with their mood if you’re polite, professional, and empathetic to their concerns (not, hopefully, that you’ll be getting a lot of irate customers!).
Without “spamming” anyone, constantly look for ways to let people know about your Etsy shop, both online and off. Have business cards and possibly other branded items like bookmarks or postcards printed with your shop’s logo, name and relevant details on it and hand it out to people you meet in person, especially at vintage related events, classic car shows, rockabilly weekends and the like. Include one of your cards with each of your orders (even for returning customers – you never know who they might pass it along to) and consider offering customers a discount code that will save them a percentage (10%,15%, etc) off their next order. You can have this printed up on your business cards themselves or in the case of orders you’ve received in your shop, write a note and send it along to your customers to let them know that they’ll save money the next time they shop with you. Etsy also has a feature where you can have this very information (a discount code) emailed to customers automatically once they’ve paid for their order. It’s a very handy system and one that I use myself.
Ultimately, have fun! Try new things and don’t be afraid to think outside of the vintage box when it comes to your Etsy shop. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, as they say after all!
Have you got any useful tips for selling on Etsy? If you have please share them in the comments below!
Jessica runs the Etsy store Chronically Vintage where she offers a loving curated range of quality vintage treasures spanning the Victorian era to the 1980s. This article was originally published on We Heart Vintage.