1) This is not a surprise, as you will see this tip on absolutely every etsy shop-set-up "to do" list: TAKE GREAT PHOTOS. Not just good, but great ones. Luckily, you don't need a fancy, pricey DSLR to achieve nice photos. In fact, you just need natural light, a simple or neutral backdrop, and a steady hand. Google around for some how-to sites, you can start with these very fantastic and helpful pages: HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE.
Truly, there are endless resources on the internet to help you take better pictures and edit them, so utilize them! Once you've done some reading and have taken some pictures of your items, ask for feedback from friends or family members. Having a fresh pair of eyes will be good, and their critiques might help you spot a problem that you overlooked.
Also, I wish I could say that this shouldn't need to be said, but it does: CELL PHONE PHOTOS OF ITEMS are seldom a good idea for your listing photos. Oy.
2) CUSTOMER SERVICE IS KEY. You can take all the pretty pictures and network with all the other artists in the world, but if you are an asshole to your customer base, you're negating all the hard work in every other category here. They key is to have quick, efficient, positive communication. If someone emails/convos you with a question, don't take a week to respond. If you agree to do a custom project, complete it within the time frame you agreed upon. For shipping, send your items out quickly and let your buyers know their purchase is on its way. If you email your customer with a big ole thank you and include the tracking number for their package, that helps provide a little bit of security that they can track their order from you straight to their doorstep (if the USPS cooperates, that is...) and gives you one more occasion to make a connection with your buyer. If something goes wrong with the transaction, bend over backwards to fix it. If someone has sabotaged something to take advantage of you, that's a different story (for example: if you make a custom shirt according to the measurements sent to you buy a buyer, and the person receives her shirt but says it fits all wrong and is way too tight and she accidentally ripped a hole in it trying to squeeze it on and now she wants her money back, you did your part and made the article of clothing according to the measurements you were given - thus, I don't think I'd refund the money in that case. So, you see what I'm saying, hopefully).
Also, and this is very important - take the time to get to know your returning, most loyal customers. Send them unexpected little surprises every now and then, offer them exclusive coupon codes/discounts, etc. Don't forget - the key to repeat business is by being kind and wonderful to everyone from the beginning. With every purchase, I am sure to include a personalized hand-written thank you note, no matter how small or large the sale, and I always get comments from buyers that it means a lot to them. Some sellers include freebies with orders as an unexpected bonus to their buyers. Don't spam people and respect your buyers' privacy.
3) Get a business twitter account (and if you have a personal twitter, keep them separate), set up a facebook fan page, start a blog or Tumblr, or heck, do all of the above. The key here is social media, and you really do need it. With twitter especially, I am able to get out short quick messages to help me disseminate lots of information. Tons of sellers use twitter to announce new items, giveaways, temporary discounts, etc. Tweets can easily and speedily be retweeted, thus spreading the word super fast. It's very important to remember, however, that if you update ONLY about new items, or ONLY about sales you're running, people will unfollow. You've got to throw in interesting content that won't make your followers feel spammed every tweet.Considering facebook surpasses google as the most-used website every day, you would be wise to create a facebook fan page, too. Once you have it set up and you start accumulating followers, really be sure to utilize it. Show behind-the-scenes photos of projects you're working on, ask people what they want to see in your shop, have conversations about your favorite creations, offer exclusive coupon codes to your followers, etc. Use that facebook page to interact with your "fans" and potential buyers, as well as fellow sellers, to really help expand your professional network.
Facebook is especially limited as far as customization, and with twitter you do have the choice to change your background image and the colors for your page, but with a blog or Tumblr, you can really show your true colors and personality. There are endless layouts to choose from, not to mention it's a great place to discuss topics pertinent to small business owners, a place to vent frustrations (keep it professional!) and get feedback from the artisan community.Do not underestimate the power of social media, and its ability to help you network and spread the word of your business quickly. Note: At the bottom of every etsy listing in my shop, I include the links to my twitter, facebook, blog, and pinterest account. I also use these links in my email signatures. So, put the links out there and people will start to come. Follow those who share interests with you, and hopefully they'll follow you back and recommend you to friends/family members. Thus, other ways that your social network starts to expand.
4) On etsy, make treasuries. If you've never done one before, I recommend you check out THIS very helpful article. Treasuries are a great way to "meet" new shops, see what kind of talent is out there, pin-point trends, etc. Treasuries help you interact with the etsy community. Conversely, if someone is kind enough to include YOU in a treasury, you should visit the treasury, comment with a note of thanks, and click on an item so it helps the treasury's stats.5) Join a team. On etsy, there is a team for just about anything. You could find a group comprised of people from your part of the world, or with members who all work in your particular medium, or find a team dedicated to making beautiful treasuries every month. Either way, teams are another great way to make connections and network with your fellow artists/suppliers/vintage sellers. Regrettably, I waited almost a year before joining any team, and I could kick myself for this!
6) Keep tabs on the monthly merch reports. Etsy basically tells you: "these are the topics we'll be promoting in the coming month." So, if mustaches, owls, vintage cars, and telephones (just picking random examples) are chosen for the August 2011 merchandise report, and you make a bunch of new items with hamsters as the theme (another very, very random example), you're already sort of taking yourself out of the running for the daily etsy finds emails and front-page-worth treasury themes. This is not to say you should "sell out" and make items ONLY according to the merch report, but have a few listings in your shop and tag them with all kinds of key terms related to the merch report. It makes you easy to find and people will want to put your items in treasuries, with the hopes of getting featured on the front page and in other prominent trend blog posts, etc. Make what you love, and if what you love isn't a popular trend, throw one or two things in that ARE popular.
7) Keep meticulous records of your transactions and financial accounts. I use a standard excel sheet to track everything pertaining to a transaction (sale date, transaction #, buyer etsy name, buyer's real name, to where I ship it, shipping method used, etc). Not only is this a wonderful way to be able to quickly see past records (you might need to check, "has this person bought from me before? The name sounds familiar..."), but more importantly, it keeps your numbers accurate and constantly up-to-date.
Also, keep a separate up-to-date log of business expenses (supplies, internet fees/usage, etsy and paypal fees, postage, etc). It's a great way to keep yourself organized, and if you stay on top of it year-round, you'll be set when you need to claim your taxes.
8) Keep your supplies organized (esp. postage things) and always have enough stock for a listing. For example, if I list a print, I am sure to have a couple printed and ready for shipping in my office/studio. Also, here's a real before/after photo of my office - I am so much saner when my of
9) Write your own unique listing descriptions with many details, including measurements. Give your items descriptive titles including key words. Use all 13 tags per listing. HERE is a good checklist for writing descriptions. Flush out your shop policies and cover your bases. This is a good explanation of the policies. Basically, be very thorough and detailed and include key terms and EDIT YOUR LISTINGS to avoid grammatical mistakes :) (Hey, I've had friends catch a few in my shop and it embarrasses me to no end knowing I had a typo live to shoppers).
There are oh so many more tips I'm missing, I'm sure, but my brain is sort of crazy so I need to stop here. :) I hope this helps! And truly, there are so many great articles and blog posts out there to help new etsy sellers with all kinds of helpful advice, so do your research and seek those out. Best of luck and if there are any questions I can help answer, don't hesitate to leave them in the comments or shoot me an email! (Address at the top of the blog).