What, exactly, should you have in your handmade shop policies? It doesn’t matter if you’re selling on Etsy, Shopify, or anywhere else online – you need to have a comprehensive policy section on your site.
I know, I know – writing policies is NOT fun.
But it IS a vital step in protecting both you and your customers.
A lot of potential issues with your customers can be side-stepped through the judicious use of policies.
A well-planned policy preempts a lot of issues, and makes sure everything is spelled out clearly to your customer prior to purchase.
It also keeps everything fair and transparent, and makes sure you can’t be accused of making up one set of rules for one customer, and another for others.
It’s as much about your protection and peace of mind as it is about informing and protecting your customers.
One last thing: your policy document isn’t ‘set and forget’ – it should evolve with time as you learn what specific issues arise from the sale and use of your particular product.
But it’s best to think about it and try to make it as comprehensive as possible from the beginning.
So – what exactly should you have in your policy document?
I’m going to use the Etsy policies as an outline here, as they have very rigid policy options set up – and these policies aren’t detailed enough in my opinion.
So, I’ve split this into 2 parts – the policies section Etsy allows, and further policies/details I think are a good idea to outline in your FAQ section. If you’re selling elsewhere, you can combine a few of these together.
Have a look at my Epheriell shop policies here for an example of that.
The following are the sections Etsy allows you in your shop policies. Basically, all you can do here is choose to turn things on and off, and change delivery times. It’s very limited in scope.
Processing Time – This will depend on the processing times you set with each product in store. Mine varies.
Estimated Delivery Time – This is where you can list different destinations, and how long shipping is estimated to take to each one. ALWAYS over-estimate how long shipping will take. It’s much better to have a customer who is happily surprised that something didn’t take as long as expected rather than an unhappy customer who didn’t get something in the timeframe they expected.
Customs & Import Taxes – Done for you – just states all customers are liable for any import or customs taxes at their end. If you’re worried this will turn customers off, feel free to add more detail in the FAQ section below.
Payment Options – This will depend on what payment options you accept. On your own website, make sure to outline what options you have.
Returns & Exchanges – Detail whether you allow returns and/or exchanges. More detail will probably be needed, which you can put in the FAQ.
Cancellations – Detail if you allow them, and if so, in what timeframe (how many hours/days after ordering).
What Etsy DOESN’T Have
I recommend adding the following to your FAQ section
Shipping Options Explained – customers often have questions about shipping options, upgrades, tracking etc. This is where you can outline in detail all the shipping options you offer.
Packaging & Gift Wrapping – How do you package your items? What materials do you use? This is especially important if you sell gift items OR you have a eco-slant to your business.
Missing Items – As far as I’m concerned, this is a glaring oversight in Etsy’s policies. You NEED to have a clear policy on what happens if an item goes missing in the post. Will you replace it? Will you offer a refund or store credit? How long (both domestically and internationally) before you declare an item actually missing? I generally say 20 days in-country, 30 days internationally.
Overtime Policy – This is a policy you may/may not want. I instituted this in my shop after many people wanted their order faster than our stated turn-around time. This is how we phrase it:
“We’ve instituted a fast-track fee for any customer who would like their order made faster than our regular turn-around time. If you would like to upgrade to fast-track (turn-around of 1-2 business days, rather than 7+), please contact us prior to purchase. The fee is $30 AUD.
We instituted this fee because – to be fair to all our customers – we don’t allow any customer to ‘jump the queue’. Instead, if you need your order faster than normal, we actually work overtime hours to get it done.”
Further Returns Information – The Etsy returns section is quite limited in what you can offer. For example – I have to put there that I don’t offer returns… but actually, in certain cases I do. I use the FAQ section to give my customers more detail on what I will actually accept, and what I won’t.
Now… Etsy does state that your FAQs cannot contradict your policies. However, as most of what I sell cannot be returned, and I only accept returns in limited circumstances, I figure this is the only choice I have to inform my customers of the details.
If you’re curious to see what I’ve done, you can check out my Etsy shop policies here.
Now, it’s over to you!
P.S. To clarify – your Etsy FAQs are technically not a part of your policies according to Etsy’s rules – so just be aware of this technicality in the case of any disputes.
Want to start or overhaul an Etsy shop?
Download this FREE 2-page checklist now - it's part of my Handmade Business Toolkit for Makers.
Don't make those common Etsy mistakes: make sure your Etsy shop is the best it can be!
(P.S. It’s also packed full of links to additional resources on all aspects of Etsy shop setup.)