I'm a writer and vintage junkie transplant from Baltimore to WV. Interests include Etsy, crafting, melmac dinnerware, and archaeology.
Selling on Etsy: Avoid Common Mistakes
I spend a lot of time educating Etsy shop sellers what to do and how to start successful shops on Etsy, All of this advice is just from my own experience. I hope that it will give others some helpful pointers on what to do to increase sales and commerce to their Etsy shop!
I learned the hard way when I opened up a shop on Etsy early on. Many people think that you can open it and your items will fly off the shelves without any effort, which is not the case. To be honest, it requires hard work and dedication. Etsy gives you the platform to turn your handmade items or dream of being your own boss a reality. However, running the business is up to you.
I have outlined 10 key mistakes people overlook or make when selling on Etsy. These areas are little focus areas that, when applied together, make up a whole pie. This overall improvement will really help you selling on Etsy.
I hope these tips prove useful and I appreciate all the comments. I have last updated this in January 2019 to include more expanded tips, tricks, and advice.
Selling on Etsy: Let me Give You A Hand
1. Jumping In Without Research
Many people open up a shop on Etsy and and wonder why their items aren't selling. It's almost certain that they haven't properly educated themselves.
Get one step ahead of the game and make it a point to spend a day learning the ins and outs of this ever-growing community. Do your homework and read up on the Etsy policies, the how-to's, and helpful strategic advice from other sellers if you so wish to be successful.
At the end of this article, you'll find a great list of links to help you and suggestions on how to research selling on Etsy, and perhaps getting more tips about selling your niche product.
Selling on Etsy: Handmade Marketplace
1B. How to Research Your Niche
Etsy is full of buyers and sellers. Some of the top Etsy shops are tracked by a free website called CraftCount. They started tracking sellers early on and separating them into categories (for instance, vintage versus supplies). I use them to look at who is selling and what is selling. This is a great help.
You can look up top shops to see tips of the trade. Look for items who may be similar to the niche you may be jumping into. I am not suggesting you copy their style, because if you do chances are you will fail. You must come up with your own style but learn from the best. The top Etsy sellers are the ones who have worked hard to build up a good repeat customer base. Find out how to do this!
- Are the items desirable?
- Are you checking the price range?
- Are they offering free shipping and a higher price, or a lower price and higher shipping?
- Are you looking at tags, titles, and keywords?
- What kind of pictures are they taking? Will yours be as crisp and clear?
- Does the shop (whose doing great) have social networking?
- Could that social networking be helping them?
- How are their customer service reviews?
- Do they run sales?
I am suggesting you learn from good examples and realize some of these shops have gone viral thanks to Etsy's publicity or being found by an outside article or source. Dot your I's and cross your T's, that is what you need to do.
Clarification: Example of Handmade Item
Clarification: Examples of Vintage Items
Helpful Tip: Craft Supplies: Clean Our Your Studio!
Even More Examples of What You Can Sell on Etsy
clothes over 20 years old
toys over 20 years old
Paintings or Prints
glassware over 20 years old
Mixed Media Art
Clarification Examples Mass Production and Manufacturing on Etsy
You will not find the "anything goes" rule on Etsy since they do not allow mass produced items unless they are craft supplies or items that the artist made with a manufacturing approval. This means you must follow the channels and submit applications with your manufacturer's information if you get to the point (as a crafter or artist) that you need outside help.
For instance, my husband and I own a trademark (got beef?®) on apparel. I design my own t-shirts, colors, logos, etc. I am not a screenprinter, and I cannot sew, so I need help with a manufacturer who makes them for me and applies my design exactly the way I want it. I use a local printer close to my business, and do small runs. I had to submit a plan to Etsy, and all sorts of proof to get approved to sell them via that channel. They are very good in keeping the riff-raff off of the site.
Another example would be a painting artist who has the best designs and wants to fashion them into a pillow. Maybe that paint artist cannot make pillows, but wants to get their "copy" of their painting put on pillows to expand their product line. For that they would need outside help, and have to apply for manufacturing approval.
You may wish to read this article about Three Birds Nest. To be fair, they were a seller on Etsy who achieved wide success and national publicity some years ago. The little handmade boutique grew so fast, unitl a barrage of Etsians indicated that she had "allegedly" ordered mass produced items (from other countries imported) that she embellished and in fact never made. Her store on Etsy vanished but I cannot speculate as to the why's and how's, only from what I've read and there was much publicity surrounding the saga.
Clarification: Ordering items from China and adding a button, bow, or pin to them is not considered a handmade item, in fact it's simply altered. That design is not yours, it's already made and designed by someone. Handmade means you are making it by hand which may be daunting task if your shop goes viral.
Happy Ending Win Win: Although at the time of the Three Bird Nest saga, the Etsy manufacturing approval process was not as streamlined as it was today, so it helped set a clearer standard and direction on Etsy and helped many upset small crafters achieve a sense of protection for handmade items. It also sent a clearer justification on mass produced. As for the Three Bird's Nest owner, she thrived from all the good (and the bad) publicity and still has an online store online.
2. Picture This! Posting Grainy or Fuzzy Photos Is a Huge No-No
This is a huge problem. Maybe you are in a hurry, or don't have enough time. The light may not be on your side today or your cell battery won't allow you to take pictures with a flash. Perhaps your camera is giving you grief—a viable excuse. But whatever the problem, please know that a picture really is worth a thousand words.
It's simple: Do not post ugly photos, or no one will want to buy what you're selling.
Perhaps you should consider Etsy as the Martha Stewart of selling online. Does that make sense? You have to have pretty, cute, sensationally adorable photos. This isn't a garage sale but a boutique!
With that said, you should post the appropriate items and take a bit more time to take your photographs.
Updated! Etsy allows you to have ten (previously five photos per item,) which really lets you show every angle of your item. Upload as many great photos as you can. These photos should be clear, creative, and close-up!
I am going to link a separate article I wrote on the photographs, with tips and tricks right here, as it's a lot of reading.
2A. Example of a Bad Photo.
3. Titles, Titles, Titles! Updated to Think Like a Buyer!
The first five words of the Etsy title of your item are very important, as chances are these are the first five words that will show up in a search or in the HTML address of the item. This means they will be eventually pulled into shopping sites and searches.
Granted, the title on Etsy is open to having way more than just five or six words, but as a rule I think you should focus on the most important in the beginning of your listing.
For instance, let's use these examples.
Let's say you have a vintage porcelain glove mold you are trying to sell.
Very Pretty and Very Old Porcelain Glove Mold Can Be used for an Art Object , Hand, Decoration
VERY PRETTY AND VERY OLD (first five words)
Vintage Porcelain Glove Mold Hand Art Object , Statue, Home Decor, Decoration, Antique, Bisque
VINTAGE PORCELAIN GLOVE MOLD HAND (first 5 words)
For this example, I placed myself as a buyer. If I was looking for a glove mold, how would I search? I would search for vintage glove mold, or vintage porcelain glove mold, or vintage hand. My reviewed "good" title would pull any of those terms up.
Let's say you have a handmade garnet wire wrapped ring made of sterling silver you are trying to sell.
Handmade Pretty Bright Celtic Garnet Wire Wrapped Ring Made of Sterling Silver or Fine Silver
HANDMADE PRETTY BRIGHT CELTIC GARNET (first five words)
Sterling Silver Garnet Ring Celtic Wire Wrapped, Handmade, Fine Silver
STERLING SILVER GARNET RING CELTIC (first 5 words)
if I was looking for a silver wire wrapped ring with garnet in Celtric design, I may search for "Celtic Ring Silver Garnet" or "Sterling Silver Celtic Ring" or "Garnet Wire Wrapped Sterling Ring" of which all three of my searches would somehow pull up the key words of the title.
Put the most precise and descriptive words first.
Think of your titles very carefully.
4. Descriptions: Use Them
Some sellers write a one-line description and leave out the good stuff. The trick is figuring out what needs to be said about the item and saying it shortly and sweetly. In other words, don't digress and don't write a book! Your description should be as descriptive as possible. Think of how you would want to learn about something. If it's a necklace, what stone is it and how long is it? What kind of clasp does it have? If it's a blanket, what are the dimensions and materials and colors? If it's vintage, what condition is it in and what kinds of defects may it have? Always be descriptive yet concise. A story is nice, but not a 10 page essay.
Some people tend to link their shop's other sections in the bottom of each description, which is helpful to get people to check out other items in your shop. Tip: Do not link to a specific item, only a shop section. Why? Items will expire and links will go "dead."
5. Keywords (Tags)
Keywords on Etsy are very important and will help get your item found. Many people don't take full advantage of them and this is a major mistake. Use them all.
If you can't think of descriptive words for your item, do a think-outside-the-box exercise. Let's say you have a blue vintage radio and it's made by Crosley. You have used the tags: radio, blue, crosley, vintage, but now what?
- Is it plastic, melamine, melmac, bakelite, or celluloid?
- Is from the mid century modern period or art deco?
- Is it an electronic item?
- Could it be searched by the words AM, FM, or shortwave?
- Is it table-top or transistor?
- Perhaps you should be describing the color of the item even more than generic hue of blue. Is it more of a turquoise blue or navy blue? Also you may wish to throw in the word music,because that's what it plays.
- Holiday tags, are a big trend. Is it a man cave, man gift, Valentine's Gift, Christmas Gift, or what?
It takes a bit of getting used to, but sooner or later you will be thinking outside the box.
6. Shop Announcement Hello: Use It
The reason you have this feature is to make announcements, so use it wisely. Keep it fresh and update it often. if you have just added new earrings, say so! If you have a coupon code for the upcoming holiday, post it there. Believe it or not, the first few lines show in Google and so you should think of good words in the first sentence or so. SEO is always vital!
7. About Section: Use It or Lose It
The "About" section is really your public profile and should tell a story. This is where people love to read and see what makes you tick. This little part of your shop may be where shoppers go to get a sense of who you are, what your style is, and if they should buy from you. The artist's persona is part of their brand, so tell a great story.
8. Social Media Is a Must!
Social media is essential when you have an Etsy shop. In fact, Etsy now gives you easy access to connect your Facebook and Twitter to your shop so you can keep your fans in the loop! There are also share tools like a pin-it buttons for Pinterest users to quickly pin your items to their pinboards.
This is the most important thing I have learned about Etsy. Case in point, with million of items on the site and thousands of storefronts, Etsy has become the most popular place to sell for the home business. The site allows the mom and pops to make a living selling handmade, vintage, or art supplies affordably, with a list fee of only twenty cents.
So the only major barrier left between you and sales is visibility and getting people to focus on your items among all the other items for sale. Etsy gives you the storefront, but you must do your own marketing, and social media is the way to do this.
- Sharing Items to Shopping Sites Like Fancy, Wanelo, etc.
I find my target audience on Instagram and Facbook, and since Instagram has been bought out by Facebook then it makes it easier to cross post. I just taught an Instagram class and sell an eBook in my Etsy shop. It's a necessary evil to think like a business and use it these days.
You want to get your items out into cyberspace, get people to notice your shop and treat it like a real business. Real businesses promote themselves. So you really need to figure out how to go all-out and connect with people and promote your wares. You can figure this out in a variety of ways:
- Etsy's blog has tons of great tips, hints, and information you'll need to guide you.
- Search the web for as many tips, articles, and insider information you can find.
- Join an Etsy team for free and network with others.
- Ebooks: buy an ebook from an Etsy seller who knows and learn how to do this yourself.
- Paper books: there are tons of books, online and at the library, to help you.
The bottom line: Etsy gives you a storefront and platform to showcase you wares. It is up to you to do the marketing!
Tip: Ebooks and Online Information Will Help You Figure Out Social Media
9. Choose a Shop Banner Wisely. Big or Small? Does it Help or Hurt?
10. Web Blog Exposure Outlets
Exposure goes hand-in-hand with social media. This means having your item or shop featured and mentioned on sites or platforms other than your own, via various channels such as blogs or websites.
You can do social media on your own, but in addition to that I am a firm believer that the shops who end up on top, are there partially due to others sharing their shop and talking about their items. In other words, they have so many "good links" pointing to their shop they may come up higher in Etsy search results than a shop who has none.
- Social media sharing is easier than ever on Etsy. Next to your items you will see sharing links so that you can promote your own listings, and so can your customers. Make sure to do this once you list an item!
- Etsy offers something called promoted listings, where your item is featured on top of a keyword search.
- Etsy offers Google Shopping integration for a small fee. I have had good success with my items showing in Google Shopping and since Google is a "mega giant" this would behoove you to consider!
- Find a blog you love that features items like the ones you sell, and ask them to mention your Etsy shop. See below. Many people would argue that blogs are dead, but I disagree. Having good links point to your shop are only helping, not hurting your exposure. Consider finding blogs that allow free submissions or trades which I've listed below.
- You can go find paid advertising or help with social media. I have mixed feelings on this. Sometimes it is easier to have a family member like a son, daughter, niece or nephew help promote your shop if they are a phone whiz as most of the sharing can be done on the cell these days. Paying someone to do it may save you time where you can be focused on running your business. On the flip side, no one knows your items and business better than you, so I suggest starting off that you do it yourself. Then teach others to do it.
Etsy Blogs and Sites: Revised March 2019 and Organized by Last Updated
- ForSaleonEtsy - Instagram that features other Etsy users and has a link to helpful Instagram guide.
- Everything Etsy (Pretty Self Explanatory), This has a lot of DIY and section on Etsy hacks. Crafters will find a great article on how to make bath bombs (you can potentially make and sell things that you have learn how to on this website.) At one time, there was paid promotion, I am unsure if they do it now.
- Vintage Chalet - History and Collecting of All Things Vintage - Pulls from Etsy Accepts Sharing Trades or Paid Trades Mainly in the Vintage Category. Shares Posts to Twitter, Facebook and Social Media to promote the blog.
- Etsy Rainbows - Etsy organized by color. (All Items, Handmade, Art, Vintage, Supplies). A trade submission process. Current followers of blog:state 6,815.
- Melmac Central : Blog featuring plastics, melamine dinnerware and Etsy shops who sell these items. There are almost a million visitors, however, you would have to have something plastics related o be featured.
- Etsyland - A Tumblr Blog featuring Etsy sellers (All Items Handmade, Supplies, Vintage)
- EtsyArtisans - Etsy Handmade Features but a little out of date.
- Handmadeology - Handmade Blog for Crafting Business and Selling Advice but seems that last post was some time ago. Still a huge follower range on many social media outlets. Check it out for good advice but hasn't been updated recently.
- Joins Etsy's Success Team and learn more tips and tricks from those who know.
- Etsy's forums always offer threads on "promotion" and "Promoting Listings" where you can advertise your items. Many Etsy sellers are also buyers! Update: As of January 2019, they are currently updating forums, so this may change soon.
Tip: Teams are a great way to network with other like minded Etsians to help you!
A Video : Etsy's Advice for Opening a Shop on Etsy
A Book to Help You With Etsy
Etsy Tip to Increase Traffic
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2013 Cindy Fahnestock-Schafer
Comments, Leave me One with Your Etsy Shop! If you liked my article, be sure to share it!
Lynsey Hart from Lanarkshire on May 31, 2020:
Thank you for such an insightful hub on how to sell on etsy. I am looking at this as a possible platform for my own crafting business. You have definitely given some great hints and tips that I wouldn't have considered before
Cindy Fahnestock-Schafer (author) from Hedgesville, WV on April 09, 2019:
Hi Angie, I feel your pain. Shipping plays a major factor on the Etsy shop but make sure you have first went into your shipping options and checked off the commercial base rate discounts that Etsy will give you. If not you will be set to retail pricing. I sell heavy items and unfortunately had to stop most international shipping due to high rates or breakage. I am unsure if you can do first class international small package rate but the issue is a lot of times that does not have tracking anymore. I upped my pricing and lowered my shipping to make the item the same overall profit, and this worked a little. Good luck and thanks for stopping by you may also see some tips here although the article is vintage it may help. https://discover.hubpages.com/business/how-to-sell...
NN Inspirational Gifts on August 10, 2018:
Thank you, this was very helpful.I read your blog and i really loved you blog,
Donna Papazian on March 14, 2018:
Thank you, this was very helpful. I need to educate myself more.
Gwen on February 12, 2018:
Thanks for these tips! Planning to start a shop selling vintage soon, On Cricket Ave and this will help a lot!
Cindy Fahnestock-Schafer (author) from Hedgesville, WV on December 21, 2017:
Hi, Did you get it straight? I had to move to Etsy's direct checkout.....................
kristen barry on December 14, 2017:
Finding it almost impossible to set up a link on my seller page to my paypal account. It keeps asking me for my bank account information... What am I missing? Thank you for any direction you can provide!
Natome on November 30, 2017:
If your looking for unique hand-made and ecco-friendly cards checkout NatomeArtistry on Etsy
Robin Laurain, LPN on November 28, 2017:
Thanks for the info.
JonTavernCreative on November 21, 2017:
Great tips, thanks :)
BellaDressVintage on August 22, 2017:
For Step 3 ~ Could you provide a better example of which word to use for your example? Thanks!
LynetteWhite on August 22, 2017:
Thanks so much for this guide. It is super helpful and I shall be using all of it to help my shop. My etsy shop is SoellaBoutique and I sell handmade wire wrapped crystal and beaded jewellery which is completely unique. I have had some interest but have still not made any sales so am spending today looking for tips and advice to implement.
iamradiantrose on March 04, 2017:
Wow! Great hub with lots of info. I really appreciate this as I am just re-opening a couple of my shops after a hiatus. I will be using lots of your tips...thank you!
Sherri on January 08, 2017:
Great information! Thanks, Etsy is definitely a learning experience that can be made much easier by reading great posts like this!
You can find me on Etsy under shop name, Margabeada Girl.
mindful memo on December 27, 2016:
Great article with very sound, practical tips and advice. Very helpful! Thank you!
molly on December 22, 2016:
Thanks for the information. I have yet to sell anything on etsy, it seems impossible.
tati on November 04, 2016:
great article for an etsy member!
firstname.lastname@example.org on August 14, 2016:
Thanks so much....THIS, I will re-read many times!
Lynette on July 18, 2016:
Thank you for this information, I've had a Vintage/Antique Jewellery Shop on ETSY for 3 years now ( AntiqueDecoRingsShop) and find that there's always something new to learn and help me be more successful.
I really love to help my customers find the perfect Engagement Ring at the right price it's satisfying.
I have a great time adding more and more Beautiful and Unique Jewellery and actually see my shop as an Artistic and Beautiful Passtime.
cherteee on July 17, 2016:
I am gaining so much helpful and in-depth advice from reading thoroughly through all the etsy advisers tips , i just opened my shop about a month ago and still have my learners L plates on. Now i feel like i have the right tools at my disposal to refine and polish my shop and start turning it into thesuccesful shop of my handmade soft furnishings ive always wanted . So here goes time to get savvy and busy with my marketing and creating, thank you for your help, and dont forget to visit my new shop at cherteee on etsy
Johnette on July 16, 2016:
Hi, Here are my 2 shops! Are these suggestions still relevant with all the changes made to Etsy? Thanks for the links!
Bekah on July 10, 2016:
I loved this article! Thanks for the advice! I hope Y'all check out my Etsy shop!
mercedes on July 06, 2016:
check it out and tell me what you think!! I need serious help!!
Sabine on June 15, 2016:
Thank you for the article. I just started my shop today and i'm eagerly trying to make the most of it. Any feedback on my shop is welcome. https://www.etsy.com/shop/CaptivatingCollages
Emit on June 13, 2016:
These tips are great. I have been on etsy for about 3 years and I had so few sales. I will definetely try some of the advice you gave. Thank you!
Tracy on June 12, 2016:
Thanks for the tips. Just started on etsy.
Laurie on June 05, 2016:
Thanks for the article! I just opened my store today and this was helpful. I am selling my own original oil paintings, which is a tough sell these days.
Marcia on June 01, 2016:
Great article !
my shop is SuburbanVintage
chipp on May 21, 2016:
your article is so informative for person like me who just open new store on etsy, now all i have to do is to apply your tips and hope got more traffic.
Ashley Kaye on May 16, 2016:
Thank you so much for the tips! I've been trying very hard to get my page up to par, it's been difficult.
Here it is! paintingsandknitting.etsy.com
Nishi Park on May 12, 2016:
Wow thank you for all the informative information! Will definitely apply some of these tips!
Cindy on May 12, 2016:
So glad I came across your advice article. Been reading, taking classes online, trying to make it work anyway I can. Thank you for sharing your knowledge to the rest of the "world".
Rebecca on May 01, 2016:
Thanks for the advice - I have done all of these things so far. Just waiting for the first sale!
Alyssa on April 18, 2016:
Thanks for such a good article... I know what I have to do, but a reminder is nice...
AJ Canvas Prints
Alexzandra on April 07, 2016:
Good points.. hope you share more tips soon for all of us..! Please check us out :) https://goo.gl/xXOsCs
Ayeesha Geros on February 13, 2016:
Thanks for this great article.. Just opened my etsy shop! https://www.etsy.com/nz/shop/MEETxALICE
Moonlitfoxcreations on January 01, 2016:
Thanks for your tips. I've been struggling for years to figure out how to sell my stuff on etsy. I've got a bunch of favorites and views but only 2 sales ever. If you could take a look or provide feedback I'd greatly appreciate it!
thereadysetcraft on December 28, 2015:
Thanks for the advice! I just reopened my shop (The Ready Set Craft) and needed some tips on how to actually make it successful :)
Sharon OBrien on December 06, 2015:
Thank you! Real world advice. I am researching information now and found your article to be very helpful!
mustLOLO on November 16, 2015:
Cindy I agree: look before you leap. Always do your homework and see what others are doing.
The title is very important for your SEO. In the product description you must ask yourself why they must have your product. Like the tip keywords (tags) to think outside the box. And the most important exposure, exposure, exposure.
Do you have an etsy shop?
Mekeshia on October 19, 2015:
Sara Brown from Independence, Missouri on June 25, 2015:
I just started selling on Etsy three days ago and so far have had views but no sales. This article is very helpful!
Valeria on March 10, 2015:
Thank you for helping! I realize I have a big job to do yet...
lyn Averous on November 12, 2014:
Thasnks for the great advise.
I want to change the name of my shop now that im selling more and more fine and vintage jewellry.
But im worried that my customers wont find me under a different name.
Is there a way around this problem.
Brianna Wills from USA on September 04, 2014:
Hi Ira Mency,
Thank you for the tips, Selling on Etsy is not an easy job.. I have learn many things about selling from this hubpage such as Social Media promotion, Keywords, Title, Photos, etc...
Best Regards :)
Lauren on September 01, 2014:
Hi! Thank you so much for all the tips! I just opened my etsy shop (TheGeorgiaPear) and am looking for all the advice I can get my hands on. Thanks!!