10 Tips for Selling on Etsy: Avoid Common Seller Mistakes
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: What Can You Sell on Etsy?
You can sell vintage (items over 20 years old) , Craft Supplies, or Handmade items on Etsy. Even some commercially manufactured items can be sold if you apply for a Manufacturing Approval, but, Etsy's marketplace really caters to handmade designers. I have seen many start a career on Etsy, and end up on their own somewhere in the art world. Many small designers that start on Etsy, outgrow their shop, and have to employ others, or have help from Manufacturers to make their dreams come true!
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?
Banner Choices Galore
Etsy offers a choice of two sizes of banner, or an option not to have one. The old classic was 760x100 and the site below has over 100 free ones. A small banner will showcase your wares but also be cute. Some shops choose to NOT display a banner, which shows more items. In my case, I have chosen a large banner because it's pretty and I think shows a bit of what my shop is about. However, it also takes up more space and that is real estate space where I could be selling items.
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