My experience of setting up an Etsy shop for my art prints

This is a short note about my experience of setting up an Etsy Shop to sell prints of my art. You can have a look at my shop here.

I’m a self-taught watercolour artist, it’s my hobby, not a living, but an expensive hobby, so back in November 2019 I decided to try selling prints of my work to cover costs.

At that time my art was focussed on scenes of local interest and so I used Facebook Marketplace to sell in my local area. This has worked well for me, it’s free, buyers are happy to collect their purchases from my home address and sales have covered all the costs of my hobby.

However, we’ll be moving house in 2020 after which collection is unlikely to be a realistic option for most of my potential buyers. On the face of it, an Etsy shop looks like a viable alternative to Marketplace for me. All sales are delivered to buyers by post so it won’t matter where I’m located, I’ll have access to a much wider base of potential customers and the Etsy platform will deal with a lot of the admin.

So, on the 8th November 2019 I set up my Etsy Shop. 

Before that I’d done some basic research. I found lots of guidance online on how to set up the Shop. Etsy’s own guides are very good, so I’m not going to repeat that here. 

I also looked at some shops on Etsy that sold art prints to get a feel for their product range, prices, delivery options and how their shops appeared to buyers. This was a useful exercise. I didn’t find any that sold the sort of thing I was planning to sell (which could be a good or a bad thing) and it gave me some parameters for my own shop.

Finally I looked at what other artists had to say about their experience on Etsy. This was mixed, some thought it was great, others had little or no sales. The key message I got was that I’d have to be professional, consistent and patient as it could take several months to get my first sale.

So, whilst setting up the shop was quick and easy, adding my prints took a lot more time and effort.

My research suggested that I needed at least forty different items in my shop for it to get recognised. Fortunately I had around fifty but I needed to get good photos of each. I found that my iPhone was actually better than my camera for this and gave pretty good images. Therefore I didn’t consider hiring a professional photographer.

I was also able to get images of my prints in a range of frames in different room settings electronically using Photoshop and copyright-free images off ‘Pixabay’. There are several websites that will do this for you if you don’t have Photoshop.

(If you haven’t visited the Pixabay website you should. It has millions of copyright-free images for you to use as reference material for your art or, as in my case, as frames/settings to display my prints.)

On the subject of copyright, if your shop is selling art prints then there’s a risk that someone could copy the good quality photo on your shop listing and make their own print or, even worse, sell your work as their own. I decided to minimise that risk by putting a copyright watermark on all the high-resolution images of my prints. Another job for Photoshop.

As I was working through the process of adding the prints to my Etsy Shop I was continuously learning better ways of describing the product or preparing the images, so I had to go back and redo earlier listings more than once! Which explains why the process of adding products to my shop took around ten days! However, when I settled on the process I wrote it down and followed it for all subsequent listings, making the task easier and quicker.

I also learned that careful choice of keywords and tags was really important when creating my product listings, they are what help potential buyers find my products. Over time my shop stats will tell me which search terms were used by visitors to find my shop. I’ll use that information to update my tags and keywords if necessary.

I felt it was very important to describe my products fully and accurately, this included the outer dimensions of my prints and the image on them, the medium, materials used etc etc. I didn’t want there to be any doubt in potential customers’ minds about what they’d be getting if they bought one of my prints.

I also tried to create a good impression when customers received their purchase by having neat, professional-looking packaging and by including a ‘thank you’ note and a small gift such as a bookmark based on one of my paintings.

I’ve been pleasantly surprised by my Etsy experience so far. My research suggested that I might have to wait months for a sale, but I got the first sale two days after adding all my products to the shop, a lady from the United States who very kindly gave me a 5-star rating after receiving her print. I then had two more sales and a commission in the following two weeks. There have been a few hiccups along the way (including my Etsy account being suspended for four hours for no apparent reason!) but overall it’s been a pretty smooth ride.

I think it’s worth mentioning Etsy’s charges before I finish. Whilst each constituent part of their charge appears small and is clearly laid out in their guidance, you don’t see what it all adds up to, which I’ve found is around 13% of the total paid by my customers (including any delivery charge).  So it’s not cheap, and you’ll need to allow for this when pricing your prints.

Looking ahead, I’ll probably be working on directing traffic to my shop through social media and improving its chances of getting found in Etsy searches by regularly refreshing my listings and adding a new painting each week or so. Of course, I’ll have to paint subjects that will appeal to the wider audience that Etsy delivers, not just to my local area.

On the other hand, painting is my hobby, not a business, so I may just enjoy the Scottish winter and walk the dog more often than I’ve been able to the past few weeks!

The featured image for this post is my watercolour painting ‘Windsurfers’.

You can have a look at my Etsy shop here.

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