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Are you wondering how to be successful selling on Etsy? Etsy can be a complicated marketplace to sell your items, but if you learn to navigate it well, it can be a great way to sell your handmade items. I’ve been selling on Etsy since 2013, and while it has had its ups and downs, I’ve been really happy selling there. I’ve learned a LOT along the way. There are so many things I wish I had known before opening shop. So if you’re thinking about opening an Etsy shop or have one and are struggling, I hope these tips and tricks that I have learned will help you find greater success with your own shop.
Tip #1 – Be Original
A lot of crafters see other people’s work and think I can make that, and while that’s a good way to improve your own skills or make items for yourself, that doesn’t mean you should sell it. You’ll never be successful imitating (or copying) another person’s work. Say you’ve learned to use Photoshop pretty well and decide you want to sell party invitations. You decide to do some “market research” and see the most popular birthday themes on Pinterest or Etsy. Chances are, 90% of these are going to be licensed characters- think Disney, Marvel, Hello Kitty, Nickelodeon characters, etc. You can’t sell these. Yeah maybe you can find PNG files of the characters to include and you’re doing most of the work yourself choosing fonts and layouts, but these aren’t your characters, so you can’t sell things made with them. You can’t even draw a version of the character, because if it’s recognizable as their character (ex. Cinderella with blonde hair and a light blue dress) they can still sue you. Etsy will close down your shop for this type of violation and all your hard work will be gone, so it’s best to avoid using licensed characters or materials. You also can’t use a lot of phrases, such as phrases from movies or songs, in designs for signs, shirts, mugs, etc. Basically, you can’t profit off someone else’s ideas. You also need to be careful of the terms that you use to describe your items. Two that I learned about in my own experience were “onesie” (it’s trademarked by Gerber and they have very strict terms about how the word can be used) and “shabby chic” which is actually a trademarked term and not just a style description. You can’t sell items made with sports team or character fabric, you can’t sell items with Greek letters either. Do your research. If you’re not sure if a word or term can be used, either find out or just avoid it.
Another note about use- even things like fonts have rules about how they can be used. When you download fonts, be sure they can be used commercially. I use Dafont because they have a filter for 100% free fonts. If it looks like something recognizable (Disney, Harry Potter, Minecraft), just avoid it. Even if the artist who created this font is listing it free for commercial use, it’s unlikely they have rights from the company that originally designed that lettering style. This is true with things like SVG files for Silhouette or Cricut products. An artist may design a Mickey Mouse head design and list it free to use commercially, but they didn’t have the rights to create that file in the first place, so you can’t use it either.
But what about something more subtle, like copying a concept or a style? This is a much more gray area, but take a moment and think- if you were the original creator, how would you feel about someone copying what you have made? Etsy sellers occasionally find great success with an item or style, only to find that the more it gets shared on social media, the more it gets copied. So many sellers now are applying for copyrights or trademarks, trying to protect their great ideas. You may be flattered when a friend sends you a link to an item on Pinterest and says, “Can you make this for me?” You may be excited about getting the business, or feel great that they appreciate your skills. But think for a moment, how would you feel if you made something great and posted it on social media, only to have others tagging their friends and commenting things like, “Will you make this for me?” or “I could make this for cheaper!” or even redirecting others to their shop instead. How would you feel if people were stealing pictures from your website and putting them on their own site as representations of the work that they could create? This type of thing happens all the time. As creators, it is natural to take inspiration from the things we see around us. But be inspired- don’t copy. Develop your own style and way of doing things. You’ll never find true success imitating others, and you could get yourself in some very sticky situations if you do.
True artists may spend years refining and honing their techniques before they sell their work. Have you done the same? Click along to Tip #2- Refine Your Skills.
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For more Etsy tips, check out my other blog posts: