I am not Amazon │ 10 Pieces of Advice for Etsy Business Owners

A desk and computer
Where the magic happens: listing and shipping.

Want to know what it's like to own a small business on Etsy? Here's a little look into what to expect.

I could write scads about customer service and how difficult it is to have good customer service in any small business. It's not difficult because it's too hard for the owner. It's difficult because there is only one of them with a thousand different jobs to do.

If you want to own a small business or have a small business (for me, I am the sole employee), I sympathize and empathize. It's tough out there. Especially when everyone feels like an entitled critic and proves this role by leaving one-star reviews.

It's madness, actually. And there's no nice way to put it, but... people are rude. And yet, that has been going on for thousands of years. So, that's neither here nor there and not something to dwell on.

But, here is something to think about: A few “rules” I would love every customer to read before purchasing from me as a shop owner on Etsy selling vintage goods. Just so they know what I’m dealing with.

More specifically, these rules are for anyone looking to own a business, particularly one on eBay or Etsy, who has a small business, or who thinks owning a business is easy (and we should bend backward for everyone, all the time, no matter what).

There’s a lot involved.

  • You are not Amazon - This is the first one because it's the obvious miry pit we business owners have found ourselves in. Everyone expects Amazon results. Amazon has a bazillion employees. They send merchandise out fast. I am not that. I’m the opposite of Amazon. I am the shopper, photographer, packer, shipper, and everything. I am slower than Amazon. I can't guarantee money back like Amazon. If Amazon were one person, there would be delays, mistakes, and room to grow. Give us small businesses a break, people! We are real people behind the merchandise.
  • The owner does it all - I'm serious. You name it, you do it. You will wear many hats and you will get tired, but you will simultaneously be so fulfilled selling things you love on Etsy, that it makes up for anything negative.
  • The owner is fallible - You will make mistakes. You are human. You will ship the wrong item to the wrong person. Not sure how this happens, but it does. I've done it several times. Triple-check your actions, and still know, that you will make mistakes anyway. As a human being, this is your rite. If folks treat you like you should be superhuman, and they will, that's their problem, not yours. Last I checked, the buyer was as human as the seller.
  • The owner is doing the best they can - You are. If you love your work, love what you sell, or create, you will want to do the best you can. You want positive feedback, not negative reviews. Sometimes, we get negative reviews anyway,  but that is a constant, like death and taxes. You will do your darndest and still get a bad review. Demoralizing, yes. But, don't dwell on it. Learn (that you can't please everyone) and move on. Keep moving forward.
  • Remind the buyer to read the listing - If there's one thing I wish people did more it's this: READ THE DANG LISTING. It seems odd to remind them to do something they should know to do. Questions are answered, and curiosities are quelled, if you just read the listing. Also, know your own measurements (if you sell vintage clothing.) If you know your measurements and they fit within the listing you've JUST READ, then you'll fit it. If you don't have the measurements that are listed, you won't fit it. Trust me. It's how it works. Seems almost... prosaically simple. You'd be surprised how many people don't read the listing and think the item will fit them regardless. (moronic behavior, but again, ... I digress).
  • Be Gracious - This is where you don't use the term "moron" to your customers, and instead, smile and say kind words to them explaining what they did, and how to rectify the situation. You don't need to refund them or correct their mistake. That's their issue. But, you can still be gracious. It goes a long way.
  • Be prepared for 24/7 - When it's your company, you will be thinking about it constantly. We're talking, 24/7 constantly. Especially in the beginning. Although, I will say, that after nearly 14 years, I'm still thinking about my shop - and how to improve it, and make more sales- all the time. I suppose it never goes away. You've been warned.
  • You will not be a gazillionaire - I sell vintage clothing because I love it, not because I want to make tons of cash. Money is a necessity to live, but I don't do this job because I plan on raking in the dough. Do what you love, and the money will come anyway. Focus on your art or your vintage, and everything will fall into place. Including income.
  • You make zero dollars in shipping - Just a reminder, folks. Shipping an item costs money. I don't make money on shipping. Ever. In fact, Etsy takes a commission off the shipping. So, in essence, if I'm not paying attention, I will lose money on shipping. If an item has free shipping, it's because the shop owner has put that cost into the cost of the item. It's rearranging - a shuffling of the numbers- if you will. Customers, please don't complain about the shipping. We don't set the costs. The shipping companies do. Be prepared, shop owners, for people to haggle on shipping sometimes.
  • You do this because you love it - At the end of the day, this is the only reason I keep my shop open. There are a ton of hassles to deal with when you own your own business and I didn't even cover quarterly taxes, business licensing, etc. My vintage shop is here, and I continue on with it, because I love selling vintage, I love sourcing vintage, and I just love everything about the vintage world.

This was a long-winded, but it's something I've needed to get onto the proverbial paper for over a decade. 

I am not Amazon. But, I sure want you (the customer) to have a wonderful shopping experience every time you purchase something from me.

If you're gracious to me, I'm more than over the moon thankful for it. And I'm always thankful for every single sale. It means the world to me. Getting to do what I love every day is a dream come true.


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