Things I Learned In My First Year Selling on Etsy

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So, you’ve recently started an Etsy shop?

Or maybe you are on the fence about starting one?

Do you experience feelings of overwhelm and downright frustration?

Totally relatable and certainly not uncommon.

The first year as an Etsy seller can be a bit of a challenge as you are trying to establish your business, but not sure in what direction you should be headed. You often find yourself questioning if this is for you and if it is even worth it.

I’m pretty sure every Etsy seller would confess to feeling this way a time or two. And as much as I love my business, quite often I found myself wanting to give up. Most especially in the very beginning.

You’ve probably experienced the endless hours spent perfecting your shop and processes only to get a handful of sales. Or nothing at all.

Sigh!

But guess what? – what you are going through is very common and the silver lining is this too shall pass. BUT only if you are putting in the work and consistency to move the needle forward.

I’m going to share with you what my first year looked like and what I wish I had done differently.

1 | Know Your Peeps

I never took the time to think about who I was serving my products to. You know…your peeps, your ideal customer, your muse — the very people who share a strong interest in the products you create.

Defining my ideal customer was the farthest thought from my mind. I was more concerned with getting my products out there, that I didn’t bother to learn who was the ideal individual that would be drooling over my products.

The problem with that is if you don’t know who your ideal customer is, it makes it very difficult to sell your products. Figuring out who your dreamy clients are helps you to determine how to serve your audience in the best possible way.

Let’s say you didn’t know your ideal customer and began creating products. Now you have entered the danger zone. You are creating products for who? Going forward like this puts you at risk making products that won’t sell.

Total waste buster.

You can also chase customers away as they may find that your products are all over the place due to lack of focus.

Ponder this: Think about the products or services you are offering. Determine what problem your products are solving.

Bottom line, know who you are selling to in order to clearly communicate your products to them.

2 | Know Your Worth

I priced my products ridiculously low in the beginning. I thought that if I dropped my prices it would make it that much easier to snag sales easily.

Did it work?

You bet it did.

The problem?

I was spinning my wheels making tons of products, working like a crazed maniac only to make mere pennies. Not to mention, I was creating a mindset for my customers that my products weren’t as valuable because my prices were significantly lower than my competitors.

Here’s a handy formula to price your products accordingly to avoid stripping away your true worth:

Cost of Supplies + Your Time = Item Cost

Item Cost x 2 = Wholesale Price

Wholesale Price x 2 = Retail Price

3 | A New Way of Thinking

Before I considered my Etsy shop as an actual business, I treated it more as a hobby. A hobby that generated some extra cash flow. BUT, the more I poured into what I saw as just a hobby, my mindset shifted into straight business mode.

I began thinking in terms of creating a business that would be profitable in nature and allow me to kick my job to the curb. Originally, I went completely head first without a strategy in sight. I didn’t have a system or structure to my business.

I was tackling this baby all wrong.

Big mistake!

Luckily, I learned very quickly this wasn’t working. I took my shop by the reins and made some massive changes. The following month, my sales swung upward and continued to climb the scale throughout the year.

Please note that becoming a business owner is amazeballs. But unfortunately, it is not for everyone. If you enjoy making products just for fun – as a creative outlet, go for it. I am all for self-gratification and would never encourage someone to pour their heart and soul into something they aren’t passionate about.

For those who truly want a business more than ever, understand, you are the gatekeeper to your success. It takes a lot of work and consistency.

This is not an overnight success story, it takes time. But, if you are serious about turning your dream into the real deal, like yesterday, then keep reading.

4 | The Business Language

You will be introduced to a new language called business. There will be things that you never knew existed until you get serious about your business.

Silly me…I thought I could slap photos up in my shop and be on my way to making tons of moolah. Ha!

Rude awakening.

Eventually, I got tired of NOT making any sales and invested in learning all I could about Etsy. That is when I was introduced to SEO, Search Engine Optimization. Leaning SEO turned my shop around and I got excited again.

From that point, I put all my efforts into learning all I could to take my business to the next level. My exclusive ebook, Etsy Playbook can help you with this.

5 | Outsource

Part of the experience of having an Etsy shop is being a solopreneur. Unfortunately, as you grow it becomes difficult to get everything done and to get things done efficiently.

That is when you will have to seek help to take some of the load off you.

Sure, your shop is your baby…

Sure, it feels like you are the only one that can get things done the RIGHT way.

But, if you continue to think this way, you will always struggle with getting things done. Not to mention you are holding yourself and your business back from true greatness.

So how do you figure out what to release without going into full panic mode?

  • Start out with writing down everything that you do — every single task.
  • Breakdown those tasks in categories, i.e. social media, customer service, design
  • The tasks you don’t like to do, delegate them out.

I must admit, outsourcing was one of the hardest things for me to do. I totally get it, but if you want to truly grow this is what has to be done. Start small until you become comfortable with letting go.

6 | Make Connections

As an introvert, I was certainly not interested in making connections. The idea of building relationships with complete strangers freaked me out.

It didn’t take me long to figure out that I was limiting my shop’s visibility and growth. Not to mention my personal growth.

This business thing is tough and it gets lonely at times. As much as your family and friends support you and your business venture, they don’t truly understand your struggles.

Enters a supportive community.

Find you a community of like-minded individuals who can be there for you with advice, accountability, and to give you a dose of virtual hugs here and there. My free Facebook group, Etsy Kickstarter-Profit Your Creativity, is a community I created for this very reason. You can request to join here.

7 | Stop Comparing Yourself

Can I be honest with you? I experienced shop envy quite a bit in the beginning.

What’s shop envy?

When you run into a shop that drops a new product and sells out within an hour and you think to yourself ugh, I wish that was me. Why can’t I do the same?

Stop it right now. Stop giving all the attention to what others are doing.

It becomes very easy to look at what others are doing and compare your success to theirs. Doing this causes a big distraction – the time you are spending comparing yourself to others, you could be spending time refining your own shop.

In addition, you don’t want to do what everyone else is doing. You want to create products that people want to buy, but that translates your own style so that you can stand out from the crowd.

Try focusing on comparing yourself against your own success instead. You can accomplish this by setting up monthly or quarterly goals to analyze your growth.

8 | Finances

When you start out you tend to put all your stock into making products. When the sales begin rolling in you bask in the joy of the cha-chings.

The year ends, and you are stuck trying to figure out how to decipher what you truly have earned, your losses, or even prepping your taxes.

Oh, the mess I dug myself into with this.

You should be tracking your finances every step of the way. This helps you identify where your money is going, what products are working, and how you can achieve future growth.

Start by opening a separate bank account. It doesn’t have to be a business account, just a simple checking account in which you can separate your personal finances from your business. It is a total pain in the neck trying to figure out where your money is going if it is intertwined with your personal account.

Next, invest in an online service to help track your finances such as Quickbooks or Wave Accounting. These services offer a low monthly fee and don’t require any accounting or tech experience to navigate.

Implementing this saves you a ton of time in the long run and creates a solid financial strategy for your business.

9 | The Never Ending To-Do List

If you haven’t figured it out, running a business requires a lot of time and moving parts.

More than you imagined.

There is ALWAYS something to do and sometimes you feel like a walking ball of overwhelm.

This is all part of being a business owner, just remember that you are only one person.

Start each day with a list of 3-4 action items that you will take care of that day. Prioritize your list based on the most pressing tasks that will affect the efficiency of your operations.

Don’t be so hard on yourself, trust me, your business is not going to fail because you couldn’t get everything on your list done. Let it go and take it one day at a time.

10 | New Ideas

Can I say, I had a million and one product ideas. What’s so funny is I actually tried to bring all of those ideas to life.

I have always been the type to turn something that was so-so into spectacular. Even if I had to learn how to get there. It is exciting for me to learn a new craft, I loved learning new things.

If this sounds like you, I recommend putting the breaks on it. At least when it comes to your shop.

I’m pretty sure your Etsy shop isn’t in need of t-shirts…

…and jewelry…

….and crochets items…

Stay focused and keep it simple to avoid overwhelm and causing you to walk away from everything in its entirety.

11 | The Peanut Gallery

You decided to do some research to learn as much as you could – which is probably why you landed here.

But during your exploration, you notice that everyone has something to say about what you SHOULD be doing to be successful on Etsy? And have you noticed everyone is saying something different?

Some of the things I’ve heard…

“It’s okay to duplicate your listings” on the other hand “Don’t duplicate your listings as you will be competing against yourself”

The truth: It’s okay to duplicate listings (because why reinvent the wheel), just rework your title and tags so you are targeting a different set of keywords to cast a wider reach when it’s time to get traffic.

“Like for like games help with sales” on the other hand “Don’t do those silly Etsy favorite games as they weaken your chance for visibility”

The truth: Do people still do these?! These games are time wasters and Etsy frowns upon a shop that is getting tons of favorites, but little sales. Soooo, don’t do them.

“Social media is the best way to promote your shop” on the other hand “Don’t rely on social media because of the algorithm changes”

The truth: Social media is excellent for growing your community, but many have also grown a successful business using those platforms. The reality is algorithm changes have destroyed businesses as well, so if you are relying on social media make sure you are putting measures in place so you don’t lose your customer base.

“You should try selling xyz to get more sales” on the other hand “Don’t change your products, focus on your marketing strategies”

The truth: You should sell products that resonate with your brand and most importantly your target audience. I would focus less on how much money you can make, because if you are making a quality product that your audience like the money will come.

There are a ton of noise out there. But like anything else, everyone has an opinion on the BEST way to do things.

My ultimate thoughts?

It is your shop and your business, and you should do what is best for you.

There are of course basic concepts and fundamentals that hold true and you should follow. But honestly, everyone’s experience is different.

What worked for me, may not necessarily pan out that way for you.

So stay true to yourself, follow your gut, and when you hear those opinions that you’re doing something wrong – even if they come from me – process it and access if it fits with your goals.

12 | Accept the Journey

When you start a business, understand that you are in it for the long haul. It requires a lot of time, energy, tears, learning, losses, and patience. Success will come if you are consistent and you work diligently to achieve your goals.

Those shops that came out on the winning end, did not get there overnight. And if you are only looking to get rich quick, this is certainly not a good fit for you.

The best piece of advice I could send your way is to push forward, remain patient, and don’t give up. You’ve got this and one day you will be able to look back at how far you have come.


Over to you – What things could you do differently with your Etsy shop?

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