How to open an Etsy shop selling prints in 30 days

“When you learn, teach. When you get, give.” 

– Maya Angelou

Have you heard the good news? For Tha Masses is officially on Etsy! I launched the store a few days ago with a series of watercolor lettering paintings, centered on celebrating self-compassion. Now that the store is up and running, I thought it would be helpful to put together a post detailing the steps I took to get my small business off the ground after planning and preparation. Though I am still in the very early stages of building my business, I know enough to guide another fellow curious creative to put fear and procrastination to the side and start building their own business one step at a time. Frankly speaking, today’s post should be rightfully titled “How to open up an Etsy Shop in 6 months” given that it took half the year to get the ball rolling. But once I was fully committed to the idea of opening my small business, things steadily and swiftly started falling into place. So here are my 6 tips to help you get started with selling prints on Etsy.

1. Start with a goal

It’s important to clearly state your intentions behind everything you do BEFORE starting out on a small business venture. Your goal should be as detailed as possible and will help keep you focused and on track with any business decisions you make. Your goals can be a short/long term plan for your business such as “I want to earn extra $1000 a month on the side” or “I want to transition into being a full-time business owner.” Like Simon Sinek puts it “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” Your “WHY” helps you develop what your goals are and having clear goals leads to making better decisions down the road. My goal for my brand is to eventually run my own design studio selling handmade goods. Launching a store on a platform such as Etsy gives me the opportunity to potentially reach millions of people, learn aspects of customer service I’m unfamiliar with, and encourages me to learn more about marketing and product development through an online platform. When stating your goals, always keep in mind the overall vision of what you’re seeking to accomplish.

2. Deciding what to sell.

Before selling prints on Etsy, it’s a no-brainer that you have to decide what you want to sell. If you’re like me and have a long list of potential products, I suggest picking one thing that you can easily develop to get the ball rolling. More likely than none, if you’re feeling bombarded with too many ideas, chances are the confusion stems from lack of execution on a single stream of thought. At this stage of the game, simply starting with one item and building over time is the route I implore you to take. As you gain knowledge and understanding, you can slowly start building on other ideas or even change course. Just keep in mind that you are not bond to any singular idea. You can always change your mind and do something else once you’ve acquired more experience.

3. Digital Downloads vs Physical Prints

Once you’ve decided what you want to create, Etsy allows you the option to choose between digital downloads and making physical prints.

Digital Downloads:

  • Easier to manage
  • More time efficient
  • Allows for passive income (money earned without extra effort)
  • The customer receives their item instantly
  • No extra cost in shipping or packaging

Physical prints

  • Gives your customer a tangible item
  • Reduces the likelihood of work being stolen/reproduced
  • Allows you to get hands-on with your business
  • Diversifies your revenue stream and allows for more profit per item sold

The choice comes down to what your long/short term goals are and how much time you want to dedicate to your business. Each option has its pros and cons so take the time to decide what is best for you.

4. Self-printing vs working with a printer

If you chose to make physical prints of your products, printing is something you will have to think about. I suggest weighing the pros and cons of self-printing (making prints yourself) or outsourcing to a local print shop to decide what option best suits you. Some things to consider are:

  • Cost of buying a quality printer and time spent researching your options
  • Cost of printing supplies such as ink and paper
  • Cost of buying a scanner (if creating artwork using paint, watercolor, ink, etc.)
  • The overall cost difference between outsourcing and printing yourself
  • Time spent making prints

In my case, I chose to go with self-printing for various reasons. As stated earlier, my goal is to run my own design studio, therefore learning how to make my own products is an important aspect of my business model. I was able to invest in getting a printer, scanner, and quality paper and pre-planned to do so. For full disclosure, this initial investment was possible due to a Christmas bonus I earned from my day job ($300 Walmart gift card), and money saved through the year from my birthday and random acts of generosity. I also received an extra paycheck in the month of May/June which was extra money to help get everything I needed without accruing additional credit card debt. My total out of pocket expenses (bonus gift card included) for a printer, scanner, paper, packaging, and shipping material came out to approx. $650.

Though I chose to self-print, there are a number of benefits with outsourcing your prints most important one is not having to do it yourself especially if the time and resources are not at your disposal. Make sure to research local printers in your area or consider using print on demand sites such as Redbubble or Society6 to print and ship your items. Print-on-Demand site offers a wide variety of options of things you can put your prints on and can also help you get things going in this beginning stage of running a business. We’ll dig more into print-on-demand sites in a later post!

5. Don’t forget about packaging and shipping

One aspect that often gets overlooked is packaging your items and shipping them to your customers. In the past, I’ve shipped personalized work to clients and friends only to have them not arrive or damaged/broken. After doing research and gathering insight from other creatives who sell their own prints (YouTube is a DREAM!) I know what types of items I currently won’t sell and found a few online retailers offering packaging materials at a reasonable price for the items I offer. You’ll also need a way to weigh your items once they are packaged and ready to ship so I suggest purchasing a postal scale. This will ease the headache of figuring out how much to charge to ship your items and also help streamline the shipping process once your store is set up on Etsy.

6. Get the word out

Now that you have everything figured out it’s time to get the word out! Let your close friends and family know about your plans to launch your online store. Get as vocal about it as possible! Being open about your plans keeps you focused and gives you someone else to be accountable to. While working on products to launch my Etsy shop, I had many moments of doubt and almost abandoned the idea. What pushed me out of that mindset was getting comments from online friends who were supportive and keeping up with my progress. Having outside support was vital in helping me stick to my word and my goals. Not only did I get a few sales moments after publicly announcing that the store was up, but I also had online friends spreading the word about the store launch, getting more eyes to my store and my work.

In conclusion, you don’t have to have everything perfect before you start. Keep it simple, start where you are and build on it. The goal here is to do the actual work that goes behind making prints and setting up shop. If you don’t know how to digitize your work for prints, Skillshare is a great place to start. I recommend this tutorial from Cat Coquillette a watercolor illustrator who makes most of her money through passive income from her artwork. It’s a great tutorial to help you learn the basics and start making some money from your side hustle. From this experience, I now feel more comfortable and confident in carrying on with my long term goal. In this short length of time, I managed to successfully launch my Etsy shop using tools I already had available while being resourceful and making a plan.

So what projects are you going to develop today to get your online store or side hustle started? What obstacles are preventing you from starting? How we will find support to help you along the way? Let me know what’s on your mind and together we’ll make a plan! Leave me a comment below or get in touch with me through one of my social channels. Let’s get your business started today!

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