There is too much competition on Etsy and little traffic to share around.
There are so few serious buyers.
Sometimes, the platform itself feels out of touch with the eCommerce needs of the 21st century.
After investing lots of time and resources in creating their original items, many people make zero profit on Etsy. Some others get the equivalent of “pity buys” from friends and relatives.
But it’s not all bad news!
In fact, a good number of people who may not be creative geniuses (or in possession of attractive inventory) make a steady six-figure income from the platform.
How do they do it?
What separates successful Etsy shops from the rest of the pack?
Since beginning my Etsy shop, I’ve implemented various approaches to drive more traffic and make more sales on the platform.
Some didn’t give me any competitive edge, but a few others were crazy successful.
I have a fair bit of experience now, and despite occasional challenges here and there, my Etsy shop is doing great.
From my own experience and from watching many other Etsy vendors, here is a list of things to avoid as an Etsy seller.
These things can destroy your shop on the platform.
1.Using grainy, low-quality images
People remember only 10% of textual content but a whopping 65% of visual content (based on data by Brain Rules).
As a beginner on Etsy, I had photography and even Photoshop skills, yet I didn’t know that I needed to put them to use.
So I didn’t.
I made my listings hurriedly during lunch break at the office or in traffic on the way home from work.
I was hurrying to complete listings, and looking back, I am embarrassed by what my potential customers had to see.
Indeed, some clients even told me that some of the pictures were excessively dull.
Following many such requests, I had to upgrade my visual content strategy to upload pictures that accurately and interestingly featured my items.
You don’t need a professional camera for this.
Work with what you have.
- Use sunlight, or ensure that the items you are imaging are well lit. Dimly-lit photos will kill buyer interest.
- In case you’re taking a photo of something small, consider zooming in as appropriate.
- Also, use a compelling professional-looking background.
- Watch out for over-exposure—the excess light that burns your pictures.
Color balance is another critical element that separates success from failure with Etsy photos.
Finally, think about “post-production”—in this case, photo editing.
You don’t have to learn Photoshop to be successful in this. Many simplified apps can help you edit your images in a breeze.
2. Writing unclear and unexciting descriptions
After someone clicks on your product image in Etsy, they are taken to the product descriptions. This is where things get tough for many sellers.
I used to compose generic and uninspiring descriptions like “This is a DIY chandelier I made from scrap metal.”
Such descriptions are soulless and not sufficient to move a crowd.
Create clear and catchy descriptions that get buyers interested in learning more about a product.
The right description should help the potential buyer connect with the product by identifying a need and/or describing a challenge.
• Study the most successful Etsy shops and the descriptions they use
• Look at what your competitors are doing
• Use Etsy’s manual for composing item descriptions
Of course, you can’t copy the exact same descriptions used by other Etsy sellers. That’s a “deadly sin” known as plagiarism.
But you can copy the writing style, brevity, clarity, and attractiveness of their copy, and if you try hard, you could even create something better.
Etsy Rank is a tool that I find helpful when analyzing my competitors and their copy strategies. You can use it to find your competitors and how they have been posting.
3. Ignoring Search Engine Optimization
If you are serious about making a steady income on Etsy, go and bookmark a few helpful websites such as Neil Patel, Search Engine Land, Search Engine Journal and others.
I found them very helpful and a good investment of my time.
Because, let’s face it, to sell anything on Etsy, your item needs to appear in a searcher’s indexed lists.
When someone searches “handmade chandelier” on Google, your shop and offer need to feature on the first page of the results.
No one clicks the second and third page, so you don’t get to sell anything if you are not on the first page.
Making this happen is not easy.
There are a set of complex variables that come into play, from images to descriptions to keywords. You need patience and constant experimentation.
Create fascinating and exceptional headlines.
Also, provide details on the Etsy shop’s About Us page so that Google understands what you are selling.
SEO can be a complicated subject, but choosing to ignore it will destroy your chances of profitability on the platform.
Start with the Etsy SEO manual—they have simple best practices that you can implement to help you stand out in the sea of other Etsy shop owners.
It will be useful to systematize how you make your product descriptions to grow your Etsy store. You need a strategy for …
Consider SEO as an effective way to drive traffic to your Etsy site. Adhere to best practices, while experimenting with different forms of content, social media promotion, and other strategies.
When you find an approach that delivers the best results, use it over and over again … until it stops working.
Then get back to research and experimentation, and find something else that works!
4. Selling generic items
While I cherished the creative home decorations I made, decor is one of the most saturated markets on Etsy.
And my creations weren’t that exceptional.
When someone looked for lighting fixtures, they had many fundamentally similar alternatives to choose from.
Given that I hardly made any attempts to boost the SEO on my shop, my listings were totally invisible and virtually non-existent.
Before you get started on Etsy, find a niche that isn’t too “crowded.” Experiment with better or exceptional ways of designing what you make.
For me, that entailed experimenting with newer materials and designs, engravings, and so forth.
When you find a way to differentiate your products from the many sold on Etsy, highlight the distinctive features in your product descriptions.
5. Not researching the market
Numerous individuals quit shortly after going live on Etsy.
They dive in without knowing where the deep end is.
Before listing a product in the Etsy marketplace, it would be beneficial to do a deep-dive analysis of your potential market.
- Who is your typical buyer?
- What are their age and income?
- What frustrations, motivations, and needs do they have?
Study the platform itself and its opportunities and limitations.
- What are its policies and recommended best practices?
- How can you leverage elements like combined shipping to add more value to your customers?
Many Etsy sellers kill their chances of success by not understanding their market and the overall marketplace.
Some even land into trouble and get their accounts suspended for policy violations.
There is no easy way around it. Read up before you start selling.
6. Overreliance on Etsy search for traffic
Keywords are words or phrases that describe your product, including the color, material, style, age, shop name, and other elements that distinguish your shop and products.
Keywords are essential to getting your items found, but most sellers “don’t have time” for keyword research.
Explore how other effective sellers are naming their items, and how they utilize keywords in their different titles. Find out what works for your shop and what makes it unique.
The first three words in your title and product description are the most critical. These three words should offer a clear and exciting summary of what your product is about.
For an amplified ranking potential, reuse these words in your descriptions, titles, and tags.
Interlinking should be a part of your optimization strategy, too. Create links between different postings in your store in your item description.
For example, if you are selling wall art, you could add something like this toward the end of your description:
“If you are looking for vintage lighting fixtures for a luxurious and relaxed vibe, check these out.”
And then, link to your chandelier listing.
Also, consider publishing content to a blog and social media to guarantee more traffic to your site. Interlinking your Etsy to social media further serves to improve your ranking in search results.
If you have a website where you post regularly, mention your products and link to Etsy.
You can also link the product to YouTube—for customers to see what it looks like and how it works in real life.
7. Saying yes to all customer requests
The mistake I made in my first year in business was saying yes to customer requests.
I think all beginner Etsy sellers experience that stage where you feel that you must say yes to anything that can bring in additional cash.
The truth is that tolerating all sorts of customer requests does your business more harm than good.
Just because you sell things on Etsy doesn’t mean that you have lots of free time. Treat your Etsy shop like a real business, saying no to customers when you have to.
For instance, clients don’t appreciate all that it takes to make a custom order.
They simply think, “Goodness, I need that changed, and the size of that diminished, and the text style changed to this and so on,” and they believe it’s simply a quick edit to the product design and features.
Etsy buyers often don’t grasp the amount of time it takes to make items, or that you have different clients to serve and a variety of items to create and design.
Understand that you must make tough choices when confronted with a myriad of customization requests. Saying yes to every one of them wastes your time and profitability.
While there isn’t anything wrong with fulfilling sensible requests, profitability should be the number one thing on your mind.
8. Thinking that you can make “passive income” on Etsy
If anyone tells you that selling stuff online is a way to make passive income, call them out for that lie.
So far in this post, you have seen that you must:
- Create unique items for success in an Etsy shop
- Write killer descriptions like an award-winning author
- Study complicated SEO stuff
- And lots more
There is nothing passive about that.
Failure to create, promote, and improve daily can destroy your chances of success and continuity on the platform.
Regardless of how fabulously splendid your item is, it won’t sell without marketing.
And after you drive enough traffic to your shop, you must keep up a steady supply of your offerings. Telling customers that you’ve run out of stock is something you should never do.
9. Using endless listings, options, and customizations
As sellers, we’ve been advised to edit, add alternatives, and list as many things as can be allowed to get more orders.
The truth is, you shoot yourself in the foot when you introduce too many options.
Additional choices, customizations, and contact requests can confuse buyers in the sales funnel.
It is an information overload that turns them off because they experience decision fatigue.
When eBay buyers come to you, they expect that you are an expert that knows what they want. Your limitless options and customizations show that you are guessing around and don’t know their needs.
10. Thinking the customer is interested in your story
Etsy customers are self-centered individuals (as we all are, right?), so don’t waste your time explaining how you got the inspiration to make your creations.
It sounds harsh, but it’s true.
The customer doesn’t think about much of anything except for their interests.
Your client will not be visiting your shop to discover more about you and how you make your items (unless you have some amazing and truly unique story).
The storytelling fallacy has been promoted by Etsy itself and its “handmade marketplace” branding.
In all honesty, the handmade story is of little value to sellers.
Your description could say
I made this afghan with virgin alpaca yarn that my cousin brought from his vacation overseas. I painstakingly knitted every single stitch, packed it, and will deliver it to you with love.
Or it could say
This lavish and warm scarf is made from the softest yarn in the market. You can wear it with anything. Be careful. Your boyfriend might steal it!
The second example answers the question “What’s in it for me?” … which is all that Etsy buyers want to hear.
The bottom line
Etsy is a decent digital marketplace for creators. However, not many people make it big on the platform.
Killer mistakes include using low-quality product images, disregarding SEO best practices, and asking “how high” every time a buyer says “jump.”
Watch out for the mistakes mentioned above.
Take time to learn your market, perfect your craft, and improve your marketing if you hope to experience explosive success on the platform.