What I’ve Learned by Selling on Etsy for 9 Years

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I started selling on Etsy way back in 2011, more on a whim than as anything intentional. Meaning, I never thought I’d attempt to start my own business! That was for super smart and creative people right? But it’s been an amazing experience, and a whirlwind of learning and growing adventure. It’s also been a good realization of how just one decision can be immensely important, and has the power to change your life.

Here’s what I’ve learned so far to achieve success with an Etsy shop. In this article you’ll learn some of my best tips, what has propelled me to continue through challenges, and what you need to know if you decide to go for it. I hope you enjoy!

#1: Be Patient

Slow & Steady Wins the Race

The first several months were interesting, as I spent a lot of time just figuring out how the platform worked.

Etsy’s shop set-up is relatively simple and self-explanatory. But I learned there are a lot of intricacies to be aware of that make my shop competitive. And that definitely takes time to learn.

The first thing I learned about being successful on Etsy, was to be much more patient. Especially with myself, because trying to understand new software can be very frustrating. (Just like I’m experiencing now with learning WordPress for a new blog.)

But I also learned patience with the overall “learning process” too. There’s learning how to photograph products, creating listing copy that would convert to sales, SEO and so much more. And then, how to actually make my products and and figure out how to streamline production and packaging.

And that didn’t even include considering how I would market my products. I thought Etsy would just send all the people to my shop. But nope, not without a lot of work on my part, especially at first.

I know you can’t expect to be an expert overnight, but I really, really wanted to be! I do admit, looking back, in the beginning my expectations were a little unrealistic. Especially in regards to the amount of money that I thought I would make, and how quickly it would come.

But it honestly just takes time to learn anything worthwhile. If something is easy, it’s generally not going to (1) become something you really value, compared to something you have to work for or (2) be worth it financially.

And when I did start to figure things out, gosh, it was so fulfilling! I wouldn’t have felt that good about it, if it had been easy.

We often take for granted when something is easy. And we tend to see our difficulties as much bigger than perhaps they actually are.

But, nothing I was working on was groundbreaking. Yet I gave myself such a hard time for not progressing as fast as I thought I should have been. Have you ever done that? It was a challenge to try to overcome that.

I had to learn to be okay with not knowing everything right away. And to realize it would likely be a long time before I’d really get good at it.

And if you’re new to using SEO (search engine optimization) you should know this: it definitely takes search engines a while to even find you, so sometimes it is just a matter of waiting. (or using better keywords!)

Most experts say it takes anywhere from about 4–6 months to get some good traction with your SEO.

So, if and when you start out, don’t worry, it will all take time. But, if you really want it, as long as you put in the effort, you’ll figure out ways to get there. And if you can’t, ask for help!

SEO Boss? Almost! (Photo from Ivory Mix)

#2 Be Curious and Analytical

Keep Learning & Strategize

The next thing I learned is that I need to continue to be curious. To continue to really seek out learning new things, all the time. Because girl, there is ALWAYS something new to learn!

I was to the point where I let my Etsy shop run on auto-pilot for a while. Not really thinking about it or worrying about it for a time. All my listings were set on auto-renew, and I had a fair amount of listings posted. So, I really didn’t think I needed to do anything else- because I kept getting sales fairly regularly.

But then, the first time I had no new orders for over a month, I started to panic! I wondered what was going on, and why things had suddenly stopped working!? Well, I think it was mainly because I had stopped working.

So, I became really interested again, and got back to work. I did tons of research into how to improve and make changes to get more traffic and increase sales. There was then and still is so much information out there to be gained! I realized I’d just scratched the surface, and if anything, had gotten lucky.

Since then, I have kept that approach as a goal; to always remain curious to learning new things, to never “settle in” and think that I know everything. If you’re teachable, you’re also humble.

Because when you’re starting a business there is no room for your ego too. It will get squashed soon enough! You’ll realize pretty quickly, that things are ever changing in the market. And you’ll need to adopt a mindset of continuous learning too.

There will always be more to learn to improve your business. So, you need to always be open to new ideas or even just to getting help.

Learning this led me to get a network of great supporters too. I’ve made friends with other Etsy shop owners, learned from them, listened to them, followed them, and studied them.

One caveat I will warn you about when studying other shops. You study to learn what it is they are doing to be successful. Then figure out how you can incorporate those strategies into your own business. But, it does no good to compare yourself to them.

Comparing just induces fear and anxiety which can in turn block your creativity and derail your persistence.

Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

#3 Be Creative

Think outside the Box

Next is that you also need to open yourself up to being creative indefinitely. This is a little different than being curious. It’s not just wanting to obtain new knowledge, it’s actually doing the work to come up with new products or solutions yourself.

You’ll need to be creative so you can create or develop new products, expand techniques, and learn new marketing skills.

You will also want to learn how to utilize all the features that Etsy provides to sellers. Spend time to discover ways you can apply those techniques to your store.

They have forums, discussions, tips and tricks, newsletters, emails, and so much more for the taking. There are also plenty of tutorials on YouTube, and I hope to publish more training as well.

Being creative will also help you increase your problem-solving skills and capabilities.

For instance, look for unfulfilled needs in your niche. Learn what it is that sets your brand apart from the rest. Then you’ll develop your own brand strategy, which can lead to you making new products.

And Etsy loves new content just as much as google or Medium or any other site does.

I’ve reinvented my shop a few times over the years. Always trying to stay relevant in a world where it feels like all style is in style. But also where anything could change based on someone’s tweet or Instagram post any moment.

Etsy certainly rewards new and fresh products, and staying relevant to what people want is key.

#4 Be Flexible & Positive

Make Changes as Needed & Don’t Get Down

This may be a somewhat similar to being creative too, but it’s more than just coming up with new ideas. Being flexible and positive can become your actual state of being.

For instance, when Etsy makes changes to their algorithm, it can definitely affect the traffic to your shop. But they will continue to do that and make other changes and you just gotta roll with it!

Having an attitude of flexibility helps me make sure that I don’t get derailed from my bigger goals, even when short term goals aren’t met.

I’ve definitely had to learn how to adapt quickly too. That might include taking new or more types of photographs, or better photos. Or updating my SEO again and again, reworking titles, finessing the copy, or improving shop design and taking new photos, etc.

So, you need to be okay with making changes. If things don’t work out the way you want them to, after doing everything you can to succeed, you have to be willing to try something new or different all together.

Update Sept. 2020: I started making face masks when Covid-19 hit because I knew they were needed, and no one was looking at buying baby dresses at that time. In other words, I had to pivot.

Another big thing is that you’ll need to get some thick skin or at least try to not let yourself be deterred when something doesn’t go right.

For instance, try to not be offended by others — like perhaps a negative review or a grouchy customer. I’ve dealt with plenty! Some problems are easily remedied, but sometimes you just gotta let it go, or give a refund.

Just take all feedback as a gift, no matter how it’s packaged. This will help you to develop and embrace your emotional intelligence too. Try hard to not let other’s negativity rub off on you, which will only close you off, and make you feel less flexible. (And kills your creativity too!)

Be willing and open to changing your perspective. Get a mentor to help you overcome problems you may face, someone with experience. (Like me! 😉) They may be able to help you see your problem in a different way and offer a solution you might not think of.

#5 Be Persistent

Don’t Give Up & Use Time Wisely

The last thing is that no matter what, this is the key, defining factor to my success in selling on Etsy. Don’t give up!

Photo from Unsplash

Persistence often occurs when we are motivated to get, or have, or to be something. In my case, I want to make and sell beautiful handmade children’s clothes with great craftsmanship, in classic styles that people will love and adore.

In order to keep up the motivation, you are going to have to set some goals. Then work on them daily, weekly, monthly and so on.

You’ll also need to learn to accept fails sometimes. But just because you had one, or many, that does not mean YOU are a failure, or that your business is. You may just need to tweak some things! (See “Be Flexible” above)

But, seriously don’t ever, ever let those fails be your downfall. Instead, you just look at them, examine them, analyze, and get right back up and try again with this newly learned understanding. This is what will help you to get better over time.

The only people I know that really fail, are those that give up. It makes me sad because they will never know what they could have become if they didn’t give up.

So, find those goals that motivate you, imagine yourself successfully accomplishing them. Then be okay feeling uncomfortable, failing some, winning some, and just keep working on it until you succeed.

“No great achievement is possible without persistent work.”

– Bertrand Russell

In Conclusion

Selling on Etsy has taught me so much about myself than I ever even imagined it could, much more than just the characteristics mentioned above.

Before Etsy, I came home from work every day exhausted, and lazily watched about 15 hours of TV a week. (UGH- that was WAY too much!) Doing nothing more productive than an occasional trip to the gym.

Operating a business has helped remind me how valuable time is, and not to waste it. I’m also so much more productive in my overall in life because of this.

It’s also helped me become better organized, more punctual, a better budgeter, a discriminating shopper, a style maven, and a business savvy capitalist. (Not to toot my own horn- ha!)

I’m invigorated in the best ways possible. I awakened a creative side of myself that I never knew I had, and given me skills and abilities that I didn’t even know existed.

Whether that’s been learning how to better market my shop, how to be a better photographer, how to sew a new pattern, or learn new techniques about sewing, I’m always actively working on something meaningful.

And now I’m also writing again and learning how to Blog too- I just can’t stop myself, and I don’t want to either.

If you’ve ever thought about starting your own shop, I highly encourage you to! Not just for the potential to make money, but to seriously catapult your creativity and increase your interest in learning again. Especially if you’ve forgotten how.

And even if I never make another dollar on my Etsy store (knock on wood), I will have become a better person, simply from the effort of starting it at all.

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