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Starting an Etsy® Business For Dummies®

To view this book's Cheat Sheet, simply go to and search for “Starting an Etsy Business For Dummies Cheat Sheet” in the Search box.


Does this sound like you? You hate your day job. You trained as a teacher, but what you really want to do all day is knit. Or you wait tables, but you dream of starting your own jewelry-making business. Or your background is in law, but what you really love is constructing handbags out of gum wrappers. There’s just one problem: You have bills to pay. It’s not like you can just ditch your day job to hand-craft sweaters or earrings or purses, right? Wrong. Thanks to Etsy (, plenty of people have done just that. And armed with the information in Starting an Etsy Business For Dummies, 3rd Edition, you can, too!

What’s Etsy? Etsy was created in 2005 to help artists and craftspeople sell their handmade wares online. (Since then, Etsy has evolved to allow the sale of vintage items and craft supplies.) Etsy allows creative types to channel their passion for their craft into their life’s work. If your dream is to “make a living making things,” then Etsy is for you!

About This Book

Starting an Etsy Business For Dummies, 3rd Edition, is a reference tool. You don’t have to read it from beginning to end; instead, you can turn to any part of the book that gives you the information you need when you need it. And you can keep coming back to the book over and over. On the other hand, if you prefer to read things in order, you’ll find that the information is presented in a natural, logical progression.

Sometimes we have information that we want to share with you, but it relates only tangentially to the topic at hand. When that happens, we place that information in a sidebar (a shaded gray box). Even though it may not be mission critical, we think you’ll find it worth knowing. But you don’t have to read it if you don’t want to.

Within this book, you may note that some web addresses break across two lines of text. If you’re reading this book in print and want to visit one of these web pages, simply key in the web address exactly as it’s noted in the text, as though the line break doesn’t exist. If you’re reading this as an e-book, you’ve got it easy — just click the web address to be taken directly to the web page.

Foolish Assumptions

When writing this book, we made some assumptions about you, dear reader. We assume that you want to run your Etsy shop as a proper business. Sure, it’s possible to build and manage an Etsy shop with minimal effort, but that will yield only minimal results. We’re guessing that you’re serious about making your Etsy shop a success and that you’re willing to invest the time and energy to make that happen.

We also generally assume that you reside in the United States. Although most of the information discussed applies regardless of your geographic location, certain tidbits — such as matters related to taxation — are specific to U.S. residents.

Icons Used in This Book

Icons are those little pictures you see in the margins throughout this book, and they’re meant to draw your attention to key points that can help you along the way. Here’s a list of the icons we use and what they signify.

tip When you see this icon in the margin, the paragraph next to it contains valuable information on making your life as an Etsy seller easier.

remember Some information is so important that it needs to be set apart for emphasis. This icon — like a string tied around your finger — is a friendly reminder of info that you’ll want to commit to memory and use over the long haul.

warning This icon highlights common mistakes that Etsy sellers make and pitfalls to avoid. An important part of achieving success is simply eliminating the mistakes; the information marked by this icon helps you do just that.

Beyond the Book

In addition to the material in the print or e-book you’re reading right now, this product also comes with some access-anywhere goodies on the web. Check out the free Cheat Sheet at for tips on creating an eye-catching Etsy storefront, pricing your work, taking beautiful product photos, and more.

Where to Go from Here

Glance through the Table of Contents and find the part, chapter, or section that flips your switch. That’s the best way to begin. If you’re just trying to get a sense of what’s available for purchase on Etsy, turn straight to Chapter 5. If you’re itching to launch your own Etsy shop, Chapter 8 walks you through the process of building it from scratch. If your shop is up and running but you’re not sure how to handle business matters — say, paying taxes or choosing the right structure for your business — then you’ll want to flip right to Chapter 18.

When you’re finished reading this book, invest some time reading the Etsy Blog (, reading the Seller Handbook (, and interacting with the larger Etsy community (get started at As your business grows, you’ll undoubtedly encounter issues that this book doesn’t discuss; when that happens, you’re sure to appreciate these incredible resources.

Part 1

Getting Started with Etsy


Find out what Etsy is all about.

Sign up for an Etsy account.

Explore the Etsy home page.

Discover tools to help you keep track of your Etsy account and shop.

Check out what Etsy has for sale.

Get the 411 on staying safe on Etsy.

Chapter 1

Handmade for Each Other: Falling in Love with Etsy


check Understanding Etsy’s purpose and how Etsy makes money

check Signing up for (and making your way around) Etsy

check Setting up your Etsy shop

check Understanding the selling process on Etsy

check Running your Etsy business with ease

check Exploring the Etsy community

Most people think of Etsy as a website where artists and craftspeople can sell their wares online. But really, it’s so much more. Indeed, Etsy describes itself as an economy — one where artists and designers “can find meaningful work selling their goods in both global and local markets” and “where thoughtful consumers can discover those goods and build relationships with the people who make and sell them.” In short, Etsy enables creative types to channel their passion into their life’s work!

This chapter offers you a bird’s-eye view of Etsy — its purpose and business model, how to sign up for and navigate it, and all sorts of good stuff about opening and running your own shop.

Creative Crusade: Understanding Etsy’s Purpose and Business Model

Many people think of Etsy as a sort of eBay for arts and crafts. And you can see why: People use both Etsy and eBay to buy stuff from other individuals. Also, both sites charge listing fees and make a small commission on every sale. Plus, members use feedback to rate their transactions.

But the sites have big differences, too:

  • Although Etsy is growing — as of this writing, the site boasts 1.7 million active sellers and 27.1 million active buyers, and in 2015 it facilitated more than $2.39 billion in transactions — it’s still the proverbial mouse to eBay’s proverbial elephant.
  • Etsy, which launched in 2005, doesn’t use an auction format.
  • Whereas (almost) anything goes on eBay, Etsy was created specifically to enable artists and craftspeople to sell their handmade wares online. (Over time, the site has evolved to cater to so-called creative entrepreneurs; find out more about what you can and can’t sell on Etsy in Chapter 7.) Etsy itself puts it this way:
    • Our mission is to reimagine commerce in ways that build a more fulfilling and lasting world. We are building a human, authentic and community-centric global and local marketplace. We are committed to using the power of business to create a better world through our platform, our members, our employees and the communities we serve. As we grow, commitment to our mission remains at the core of our identity. It is woven into the decisions we make for the long-term health of our ecosystem, from the sourcing of our office supplies to our employee benefits to the items sold in our marketplace.

remember So how does Etsy’s business model work? Etsy stays afloat by charging sellers a fee for each item listed on the site. At this time, the listing fee is 20¢ per item. Etsy also collects a commission from the seller for each item sold — currently 3.5 percent of the total price of the item, not counting shipping. In addition, Etsy collects fees (3 percent of the total price of the item plus an additional 20¢) from shopkeepers in the United States who use its handy-dandy Etsy Payments feature, which enables buyers to pay using a credit card or Etsy gift card. These fees, which you can pay using a credit card that you put on file with Etsy or using your PayPal account, are due monthly.

World Up: Introducing the World of Etsy

Just what can you do on Etsy? And how do you use it? This section scratches the surface. (You find the nitty-gritty, step-by-step info about these topics in later chapters.)

Registering with Etsy

You don’t need to register with Etsy to scope out what goodies are for sale. But if you’re in the market to buy any of said goodies — or to communicate with other Etsy members or participate in the site’s community features — you need to create an account with the site. Fortunately, creating an account is simple and free. All you need to do is enter your name and email address and choose a username and password. You don’t even need to supply a credit card number!

If you plan to use Etsy to sell your own items (and we assume you do because you’re reading this book), you need to take a few more steps as well as provide a major credit card (think MasterCard, Visa, Discover, or American Express) and other vitals, such as your address.

For step-by-step coverage of completing the registration process and signing in to your Etsy account, turn to Chapter 2. Chapter 8 covers the steps you need to take to become an Etsy seller.

Navigating the Etsy home page

Whether you’re buying or selling, exploring or researching, Etsy’s home page is your home base. It’s the page that appears when you go to You can also access Etsy’s home page from anywhere on the Etsy site by clicking the Etsy logo in the upper-left corner of each Etsy Marketplace page. (We explain why we say “Etsy Marketplace” here in a sec.) If you’ve created an account and are logged in to the site, you can also click the Home button in the upper-right area of the screen.

remember The Etsy home page, shown in Figure 1-1, features several important sections. These include the following. (Note that this section assumes that you’re not signed in to your Etsy account. The options change slightly if you are — and even more if you are a seller. For more information, see Chapters 3 and 8.)

  • A standard search box, for when you know what you’re looking for
  • A set of links along the top, which you can click to browse items in various popular categories, including Clothing & Accessories and Jewelry
  • Editors’ picks for top Etsy items
  • Top shops that are worth a look
  • Recent reviews from happy shoppers
  • Access to various Etsy blogs


FIGURE 1-1: Etsy’s home page.

For more information about these and other home page features, check out Chapter 3.

Understanding your account and your shop

On Etsy, managing your account is easy. Etsy has grouped all the key settings and info in two easy-to-reach places: the You menu (see Figure 1-2) and the Shop Manager page (see Figure 1-3). You access the You menu and Shop Manager page by clicking the You and Shop Manager links, respectively, that appear along the top of every Etsy Marketplace page when you’re logged in to your Etsy account. (If you haven’t set up your Etsy shop yet, you may not see a Shop Manager link.) The You menu contains a series of links that provide access to all sorts of useful info — your public profile, conversations with other Etsy users, items you’ve bought, account settings, and teams you’re on. The Shop Manager page contains links to various shop-related settings and more. For help with navigating You and Shop Manager, turn to Chapter 4.



FIGURE 1-2: The You menu.



FIGURE 1-3: The Shop Manager page.

remember Notice in Figure 1-3 that there’s no header bar on the Shop Manager page. That means there’s no easy access to the various links on the header bar. To access those links, you have to switch from Shop Manager to the Etsy Marketplace. To do so, click the Shop Manager link in the upper-left corner of the Shop Manager page. Then choose Etsy Marketplace from the list that appears.

Discovering what’s for sale on Etsy

Etsy features unique items — goodies you simply can’t find anywhere else — along with supplies for crafting your own pieces. In fact, Etsy offers an incredible breadth of items for sale, from accessories to ceramics, jewelry to quilts, and everything in between.

tip To help you find a specific item, Etsy offers a robust Search tool. You can also use the Search tool to locate a particular shop. If you’re just browsing, you’ll appreciate Etsy’s many browsing-related features. (Exactly which features are available depends on whether you’re logged in to the site.) You access these tools from Etsy’s home page. For additional help, turn to Chapter 5.

Ensuring your safety on Etsy

remember No doubt about it, one of the highlights of Etsy is its thriving community of interesting, arty folk. But you may still find an occasional bad apple in the Etsy bunch. Take a few key steps to ensure your safety:

  • To make sure that no one accesses your account without your authorization, choose a strong password. Select one that meets all the following criteria:

    • It’s at least eight characters long.
    • It doesn’t contain your username or your real name.
    • It doesn’t contain a complete word.
    • It differs from passwords that you’ve used in the past.
    • It contains a mixture of uppercase letters, lowercase letters, numbers, symbols, and spaces.

    For an added layer of protection, change your password every so often — say, every 30 to 60 days.

  • Be on the lookout for scams. These often involve the use of money orders or cashier’s checks, along with an offer to pay significantly more than is necessary to expedite shipping or to cover some other weird request. If you do get taken on Etsy, contact your financial institution immediately. Then report the situation to Etsy. You may also opt to alert your local law enforcement.
  • Before you jump into a forum or team discussion, monitor it for a while. See whether the folks engaged in the discussion are people you really want to interact with. If a discussion goes south, simply disengage.
  • Play it close to the vest. Don’t share your digits or other personal details, such as where you live or work, on Etsy’s forums or other public spaces. Oh, and if you decide to meet up with someone you’ve met on Etsy in person, pick a neutral, public place, let a friend or family member know about your plans, and be sure to bring your phone with you in case you need to call for help.

Chapter 6 covers important safety issues in more detail.

Storefront and Center: Setting Up Your Storefront

When you set up your Etsy storefront, you can personalize it in several ways:

remember As you set up your storefront, keep in mind that a major reason people shop on Etsy is to feel connected to the artists who make what they buy. If you want people to buy from you, make sure your Etsy shop reflects your personality! For example, do you have a serious bent? Then your shop should, too. Ditto if you’re whimsical, modern, traditional, edgy, or frilly. Let your personality shine through in your choice of cover photo, shop icon, and other visual elements as well as in your bio and other text-based elements. Not only will this increase your sales, but it may just help you make some friends along the way. (For more on setting up your Etsy shop, check out Chapter 8.)

Oh, one more pointer: As you set up your Etsy shop, you’ll want to clearly lay out your shop policies — how much you charge for shipping, whether you accept returns, and so on. We cover smart policies in Chapter 9.

Sell’s Angels: Surveying the Etsy Selling Process

remember Maybe you want to do more than buy on Etsy. Maybe you want to sell. Putting up an item for sale on Etsy is a simple process:

  1. Create (or curate, in the case of vintage pieces) the item youre selling and determine how much you want to charge for it (with the help of the pointers we provide in Chapter 10).
  2. Photograph your piece.

    You can include as many as five pictures of each piece in your Etsy shop. The photos you provide should convey the shape, size, color, and texture of your piece and also be easy on the eye.

  3. Compose a snappy title and description for your item listing.
  4. List your item on the site and wait for someone to snatch it up.
  5. When the item sells, ship it to the buyer (after you receive your payment, of course)!

Okay, that’s a broad overview. The process has a little more to it. But trust us: It’s nothing you can’t handle. Check out the chapters in Part 3 to get up to speed.

Takin’ Care of Business: Handling Business Matters

For some sellers, running an Etsy shop is merely a hobby — a way to make a little extra money on the side. For others, it’s their day job, or “what they do.” Regardless of which camp you’re in, you need to treat your Etsy shop as a proper small business — building a brand, marketing your shop, and providing excellent customer service.

If you’re in the latter category — someone who seeks to earn a living by selling on Etsy — you may choose to do even more. For example, you may opt to incorporate your business, obtain a business checking account, streamline your supply chain, use special tools to analyze your business, and so on. Part 4 covers all these topics and more.

Community Collage: Engaging in the Etsy Community

Sure, Etsy is a great place to buy and sell all sorts of neat stuff. But it’s more than that: It’s a community of creative, crafty people that just begs for participation. Etsy offers several tools that help you jump right in, including these:

You can also follow your favorite shops and sellers to keep up with their goings-on by adding them to your Favorites.

Other great resources for the Etsy community include the Etsy Blog (, which acts as a neighborhood newspaper of sorts. The Etsy Blog serves up fresh content daily and boasts material ranging from information to help you perfect various crafting techniques, to glimpses into the lives of other Etsy sellers, and more.

Etsy’s email newsletters are another great source of information and inspiration. And if you’re among the more than eleventy-jillion people who maintain a social media account — for example, on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest — you can connect with Etsy there as well.

tip Etsy is super easy to use, but you’ll still need a little help sometimes. Fortunately, Etsy maintains copious resources to help members find answers to all their burning Etsy-related questions, from Help files to an interactive Questions forum. Go to for the scoop.

Ready to dive in? Flip to Part 5 for all the details on engaging in the Etsy community.

Chapter 2

Let’s Get This Party Started: Signing Up


check Registering for a basic Etsy account

check Signing in to your Etsy account

check Populating your public profile

The Father of Taoism Lao Tzu once said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” (He also said, “Silence is a source of great strength” and “The sage does not hoard”; we’re still digesting those.) On Etsy, that one first step is becoming a registered user by signing up with the site. After that, you’re ready to embark on your own Etsy journey! This chapter gives you all the info you need to register with Etsy.

Sign Me Up! Becoming a Registered User

Anyone can browse Etsy to see what goodies are for sale. But if you’re in the market to buy, or if you eventually want to open your own shop, you need to create an account with the site by becoming a registered user. It’s easy and free! Just follow the guidelines in this section.

tip In addition to being able to purchase items on the site, registered users can keep track of their best-loved items or shops by adding them to their Favorites, communicate with other Etsy members, and participate in the site’s community features, such as the forums. Flip to Part 5 for more information about all these options.

Setting up your account

Assuming that you have access to a computer, tablet, or smartphone and an Internet connection, becoming a registered Etsy user is super easy. (Note that the screen images shown here were captured on a computer. They may look different on a tablet or smartphone.)

  1. In your web browsers address bar, type and press Enter or Return.

    Etsy’s main page appears (see Figure 2-1).

  2. Click the Register link in the top-right portion of your screen (refer to Figure 2-1).

    The registration page appears (see Figure 2-2).

  3. Type your first name in the First Name field and your last name in the Last Name field.

    Note that filling out these fields is strictly optional. If you do fill them out, your name will be publicly displayed throughout the site. If you want, you can add simply your first name or a nickname or your initials — whatever. If you decide to leave both of these fields blank, your username is the one that other Etsy users will see.

    tip You can save a few steps by clicking the Sign Up Using Facebook or Continue with Google button to create your Etsy account. If you do, some of your activity on Etsy — for example, when you favorite an item — may be posted on your Facebook page. This section walks you through signing up for Etsy the old-fashioned way: by entering your info directly on Etsy’s site.

  4. Type your email address in the Email field.
  5. In the Password field, type the password you want to use to access your Etsy account.

    Create a password that’s at least eight characters — one that you can remember easily but that won’t be too obvious to anyone else.

  6. Retype the password in the Confirm Password field.
  7. In the Username field, type the username you want to use on Etsy.

    This name must contain fewer than 20 uppercase and/or lowercase letters or numbers (no spaces). Etsy notifies you if someone else has selected your username. In that case, try another one until you find one that’s available.

    remember You can’t change your username, so make sure that the name you choose is something you can live with as long as you’re on Etsy and that you’re cool with everyone you buy from and sell to seeing the username you choose. (In other words, “WinonaForever” may not be the way to go.)

  8. To read the terms of use, click the Terms of Use link, and to read Etsys Privacy Policy, click the Privacy Policy link.

    You find out more about the Terms of Use in the next section. Flip to Chapter 6 for more on Etsy’s Privacy Policy.

  9. Click the Register button.

    Etsy creates your account and sends a confirmation email to the address you supplied in Step 4.

    tip If you don’t receive the confirmation email right away, check your spam folder to make sure it wasn’t intercepted.

  10. Open the email from Etsy and click the link that it contains to confirm your account.

    You’re ready to go!



FIGURE 2-1: Etsy’s main page.



FIGURE 2-2: The registration page.

Accessing Etsy’s House Rules and reviewing its Terms of Use

Before registering with and using Etsy, take a moment to access the site’s House Rules and review its Terms of Use. Follow these steps:

  1. Click the Help button in the bottom-right corner of any Etsy Marketplace page.

    The Help page appears.

  2. Scroll down to the Still Have Questions? section and click the Read Our Site Policies link.

    The Our House Rules page appears.

  3. Click the Terms of Use link.

    The Terms of Use page appears, as shown in Figure 2-3.



FIGURE 2-3: Review Etsy’s Terms of Use.

Etsy’s Terms of Use page is kind of like the site’s constitution. It sets out your rights and responsibilities on the site. This 14-point document covers maintaining your privacy, content requirements, proper use of services, termination, warranties and liability, indemnification, handling disputes, and other important legal-type stuff.

remember Maybe you’re wondering why you need to read Etsy’s Terms of Use. Here’s our answer: Violating any of the policies spelled out in the Terms of Use is grounds for expulsion from the site. The “But I didn’t know it was a policy!” defense doesn’t fly.

In addition to its Terms of Use, Etsy has several more House Rules. We cover these in a bit more detail in Chapter 6.

It’s a Sign: Signing In

After you’ve created your Etsy account, signing in is a snap. Just go to and click the Sign In button in the upper-right corner of the screen. (You can see this button in Figure 2-1, just to the right of the Register link.) Then, in the pop-up window that appears, type your email address or username in the Email or Username field, type your password in the Password field, and click the Sign In button (see Figure 2-4).



FIGURE 2-4: Use your username or email address and your password to sign in to your Etsy account.

tip Notice the Stay Signed In check box in Figure 2-4. If you select this check box, you can navigate away from the site and return without having to sign in all over again. However, we don’t recommend you choose this setting if you’re on a public computer (for example, at a library or Internet cafe). Otherwise, a complete stranger could access your account!

What about signing out? That’s even easier than signing in. Simply click the You button that appears in the header bar when you’re signed in and choose Sign Out from the menu that appears.

High Profile: Setting Up Your Public Profile

Everyone who joins Etsy has a public profile page. Why? A couple of reasons. For one, being able to check out other Etsy members helps to inspire confidence in the site. That is, it’s not populated by a bunch of faceless buyers and sellers; it’s populated by actual people! For another, it’s fun to see who else is on the site.

An Etsy profile can (but doesn’t have to) include the following tidbits:

Anyone who visits your Etsy shop can access your public profile by clicking your name or profile picture on any page in your Etsy shop.

To populate your Etsy public profile, follow these steps:

  1. Click the You menu along the top of any Etsy Marketplace page and choose View Profile.

    Your profile page appears, as shown in Figure 2-5. Note the generic profile picture.

  2. To add a personalized profile picture, click the camera button in the bottom-right corner of the generic photo.

    The Add a Profile Photo dialog box opens. It lists various photo specs, including the file type (JPG, GIF, or PNG), file size (smaller than 10 megabytes), and dimensions (at least 400 x 400 pixels).

  3. Click the Choose a File button.

    A standard Open dialog box appears.

  4. Locate, select, and open the photo you want to use.

    Etsy shows you a preview of your photo (see Figure 2-6).

  5. If you like the photo, click Save. Otherwise, click Go Back and repeat Step 4 to use a different photo.

    When you save your photo, Etsy returns you to your profile page. The profile picture you chose replaces the generic one (see Figure 2-7).

  6. Click the Edit Profile button.

    The Your Public Profile page opens. Here, you can enter additional information about yourself. (See Figure 2-8.)

  7. If you want, indicate your gender.

    If you prefer to keep that information private, select the Rather Not Say option button.

  8. Type your city in the City field.

    As you type, Etsy displays a list of matching locales; click your town in the list to select it.

    tip By entering your city, you enable Etsy buyers near you to find your shop.

  9. Use the Month and Day drop-down lists to enter your birthday.
  10. Type your bio in the About box.
  11. In the Favorite Materials box, indicate which materials you like to use, separating entries with a comma and a space.

    You can add as many as 13.

  12. If you want your profile to include your shop, any favorite items or shops, and any teams youve joined, leave the check boxes at the bottom of the screen checked.

    If you see a Treasury Lists check box, ignore it. Etsy members used to be able to curate Treasuries — lists of their favorite items on the site — but that’s no longer the case. Selecting this check box simply enables members who curated Treasuries in the past to continue to share them.

  13. Click the Save Changes button.

    Etsy saves the changes you made to your profile.

  14. To preview your profile, click the View Profile button in the top-right area of the page.

    Etsy shows you how your profile will appear to others (see Figure 2-9).



FIGURE 2-5: From here, you can populate your profile.



FIGURE 2-6: Preview your photo.



FIGURE 2-7: The photo you chose replaces the generic one.



FIGURE 2-8: You can populate your profile from the Your Public Profile page.



FIGURE 2-9: Preview your profile.

Chapter 3

There’s No Place Like Home: Discovering Etsy’s Home Page


check Exploring the header bar, categories, and Search tool on Etsy’s home page

check Seeing more ways to shop

check Perusing the Etsy Blog and tracking Etsy campaigns

check Finding out more about Etsy and checking out the footer links

check Viewing the home page on the Etsy app

Home. It’s a word with many meanings. It’s where you live. It’s where your heart is. It’s where you hang your hat. It’s where the cows finally come. Simply put, it’s a place to which you always long to return.

Etsy’s home page is no different. As you use the site, you’ll often find yourself returning home — to the home page, that is. Whether you’re buying or selling, exploring or researching, Etsy’s home page is your home base. In this chapter, you explore the various features of the page and find out how to navigate from it.