Once upon a time, I loved counted cross stitch. Then I made a business out of it and didn’t love it anymore. Alas, I was left with two file tubs full of reminders of my folly, half paper patterns no one wanted and half fabric and floss I didn’t know how to sell.
One day, while purging mementos and other past prized possessions, I ran across said tubs and had a sad. What was I going to do with these memories? Because that’s what it was—memories. First, I’d failed in my business endeavor (not before wringing my credit dry) and second, I killed my love for my hobby. It’s more likely I failed because I killed my love for my hobby.
But how? My first problem was that I didn’t know how to list quantities of uncut fabric.
Regular fabric is sold by the linear (running) yard. It’s usually 44″ or 54″ inches wide, folded in half lengthwise and rolled onto a flat cardboard core. When you get a yard of fabric, it’s 36″x44″ (or 36″x54″). Cross stitch fabric is always 54″ wide.
Cross stitch fabric is not sold by the running yard. It’s sold in sections of a yard unfolded, called “fat halves”, “fat quarters” and “fat eighths”. It can be sold that way because cross stitch fabric has no grain, so it makes no difference which way it’s cut. In a running yard, there are a few different possible combinations of cuts.
This is important because I had to determine whether to cut it first and make my little packages or do I go through the hassle of cutting to order (selling by the square inch)? And if so, how would that work? It’s taken me months to figure out, but I finally did—using the variations/SKU feature.
What I do is list availability of 2 fat halves, 4 fat quarters, and 8 fat eighths, and adjust the quantities every time someone buys one of the above. It is a little bit of a pain, but Etsy does not allow you to put a quantity of 0 to trigger a “sold out” designation.
I also had lots of types of embroidery threads. Hundreds of different colors and textures and brands.
My last problem was … all—this—stuff. Photographing and writing the listings and on and on and on. That’s the most tedious thing about setting up an Etsy shop.
I estimate it took me about 40 hours to photograph and list my products, but if you have quantities of things to sell that people want, it’s well worth it. In my case, I’d already written that stuff off on my taxes, so getting them out of my house without throwing it out or donating it was my main goal. There was a lot of money wrapped up in that fabric. I have, at this point, made a profit on it, and have started buying the popular ones specifically to sell—and what sells may surprise you.
Now, here’s how I would recommend you set up an Etsy shop. Setting up the Etsy shop was pretty easy. If you already have an Etsy account to purchase, you also have a store account if you want to use it.
- Sort through what you think you can sell on Etsy for a fixed price and inventory it.One thing I already knew was that some of the patterns I had from other designers had appreciated in value because they were rare. I didn’t know how much, though, so I put those things on eBay. One of those patterns went for $500. So unless you are absolutely certain your stuff would not fetch much at auction, use Etsy.
- Photograph or scan all your items in one go.There are numerous tutorials on the web for how to photograph your stuff for optimal eyecatchery, but I don’t have a light box and I wasn’t going to make a cheap one and my items did not need fancying up.
I got white poster board, a white presentation board, white fabric, and scrounged around my house for a floor lamp with a gooseneck fixture. I put the poster board on the floor, set the presentation board on it, draped the white fabric over it, positioned the lamp where I could see no shadows, and went to town.
I scanned my fabric.
- Put all that stuff away, get out your inventory sheet, and sit down at the computer.
- Set up your Etsy shop account.The process is fairly straightforward because all you really need to do is give them your bank account information so they can pay you. You can choose to use Etsy payments or Paypal. I missed that step and told it I would use Etsy payments, which is fine. I noticed other vendors using Paypal payments, though, so there is that option if you want it.
- List your first item.The most important thing is to take your time. I can’t think of one detail in the listing form that Etsy has forgotten. There are possibilities for everything you can think of.
- Find comparable products and read those descriptions. Copy anything you think you can use for your product.
- Write as much as you possibly can about your product, down to the nth detail. Nobody will read it. It’s not there for that; it’s to cover your butt in case a customer comes back on you.
- Write your shop/shipping policies in the description and again in the space provided for your shop/shipping policies.
- Use keywords, but use them judiciously. You only get so many and you need to have a good feel for what people type in when searching out products like yours.
- Longer item titles are better for searching.
- Then start cloning your listing and carefully editing it for each item.
- Use the variation/SKU feature as much as possible.For instance, if you have a tee shirt that is of one design, but comes in different colors and different sizes and different prices, use one listing for the design, then add a variation for size and a variation for color. This is important because it makes buying easier. You don’t want to have to make all those listings (or pay for them) and nobody wants to hunt all over your site for different variations.
One thing I have found frustrating as a purchaser is, for instance, there is a cross stitch pattern that is part of a set, e.g., seasons: winter, spring, summer, fall. I have to hunt for each season on the site and if you have hundreds of listings, this gets annoying. If you have a set of something but they are each in a different listing, in your description, list “part of this set” and put the URL to the other items in that set.
- Postage scale
- Appropriate packaging for the item itself
- Appropriate shipping packaging
- You will have to figure out how you want to ship and purchase postage. You can purchase it through Etsy, but you must know exactly how much it will cost to do so. I don’t use this option.
But I also have an issue with just taking it to the post office. My local post office always charges me significantly more to ship than customer service at Hy-Vee. I don’t know why this is. So be careful about postage; the last thing you want is for it to arrive COD (did that once) or have it returned for insufficient postage (did that once).
Etsy does not limit how much you charge for shipping the way eBay does, but it will gently remind you that $X may be more than a customer would be willing to spend on shipping. It’s a helpful reminder.
The other thing that will invite a customer to spend more is if you make your shop “free shipping over $35”. People will buy more if they see “free shipping”.
Etsy, like eBay, charges a fee to list the item. It is 20¢ per item per quarter. They also take a percentage of the sale price.
One thing they do that I objected to at first is they promote you and charge a fee for this. There is no opting out. You can purchase more promo, but Etsy will promote you at their baseline and they will charge you for it.
I say “at first,” because I quickly realized I probably would have gotten no traffic to my site without it. When I did the math, I decided not to be salty about it and be grateful instead because …
Overall, my fees are about 16% of my sales. God gets less than that, but eBay takes more and limits your shipping fees, so I’m happy with it.
Etsy drops money into my account every week. You can change that schedule if you want. Weekly is the default and I saw no reason to change that.
I really shouldn’t need to tell anybody to make sure they stay on top of their Etsy orders, shipping in a timely manner, and whatnot, but here I am saying it anyway.
It was the only way I knew how to end this article.