Design studio of Dorothea Lee


Blog of Dorothea Lee's graphic design studio, fartherMORE, containing visual experiments, wonders, and the occasional throwback.

MORE about: Etsy (part 2)

With success and expansive growth, Etsy has undergone a lot of significant changes that impact the individual artist-seller. I wanted to hear a more personal, in-depth view from the artist-seller's perspective, so I’ve interviewed a couple friends who come from very different backgrounds in relation to this platform. Below are highlights and findings from these conversations. This is 2 of 2.

Janille Hill is the charismatic and ambitious force behind HilltopKnitwear, a made-to-order knitted fashions shop. She's pretty new to the biz and to Etsy, so she has a fresh perspective on what it's like to start out in today's competitive market, and shares tips on how to make that learning curve a little less steep.

You just opened your Etsy shop this past November. What made you choose Etsy compared to other platforms, and how have you found this experience?
I just went with it so that I could list my knitted styles and they would have a place to live (I amassed a bunch of stuff first before starting my Etsy shop). It was easier than I expected. For example, you can copy the whole description of one product and then edit it for the next product. I also looked at other people's products that were similar to mine to help me with the description, and asked customers to describe how they would search for the item and find it. One thing I wished I had known more about beforehand was I thought you could change the order of things. Since I didn't name all my colors in the beginning, I now have to go back in to edit each color. Once you decide on the content, everything is super accessible. You don't have to know anything to achieve a polished look.

It was a lot of work going back, but I learned so much going forward....Just get started!
— Janille Hill

How did you figure out how to price your products?
I decided to do it by the cost of the yarn/materials instead of how many hours were put into it. I then decided how much I wanted to make in addition to that. I also looked at other people's prices. I thought, even though I would never work for $10/hr, it wouldn't make sense to raise the rate higher than that because the price of the scarf would double. Thinking of it another way, $10/hr while watching Grey's Anatomy and knitting was better than $0 while watching Grey's Anatomy and knitting. I figured out shipping costs after the fact and did not include it in my pricing—I just gave ballpark pricing.

The advantage to selling outside of Etsy's platform is that people can see and feel the product for themselves in person, and then they feel it's worth more or that the price is justified. It's word of mouth/wanting to support a friend/impulse buying vs. competitive price buying.

What do you think are the most important factors to a satisfied customer?
When people are involved in the process, they like it. I've made adjustments based on their feedback. People also like a fast turnaround.

HilltopKnitwear's Maughn beanie with Corco buttoned scarf

HilltopKnitwear's Maughn beanie with Corco buttoned scarf

Now that you've had your business for a bit, what kind of essentials do you recommend figuring out before you begin your own business/shop?
For in-person sales, Etsy doesn't take a cut besides the listing price, and you can still get a review. With PayPal + Etsy, it wound up totaling almost 10% cut of your sale, so I took off PayPal.

It's easier to figure things out off-season; the hardest part is just getting started. It was hard to figure out the name of my store...but you can change the name. So my advice is to just go on Etsy and use whatever email address to check things out. I was working on the site for months before launching—you can hide it until you're ready. It was a lot of work going back, but I learned so much going forward. I also had a huge support system help me launch. Even if you're just mildly good, people will love what you make more than something by someone they don't know. Just get started!

Thank you, Janille, for sharing your Etsy experiences and tips with us as a start-up shop owner. You've made an Etsy launch seem like it has such a soft landing, anyone would feel inspired and encouraged to try it out!

You can check out HilltopKnitwear's shop for more cozy offerings or click on my favorite items in the image above.