6 Things No One Tells You About Selling on Etsy

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Back in September of 2016, I opened my first Etsy shop. The very next month I broke my first hundred dollars in sales. Then in December, my daily views doubled. Things were going right! In fact, I’ve read every seller article I could get my hands on, and paid for multiple courses since then.  Yet, with all the research I’ve done, there’s a few key things that no one talks about. So here it is: my list of 6 things no one tells you about selling on Etsy.

1. Your First Products Will Suck

I’m sorry, it’s harsh. But it’s probably true. I’ve been working graphic design for years, and my first couple products on Etsy sucked. See for yourself below!

I didn’t even frame this product when I initially posted the listing. Yikes.

My point is: Etsy is new and exciting. It’s easy to get wrapped up in wanting to make any new listing, so it’s okay if they suck. The goal is to learn and to find your style, even if it takes some time. Plus you’ll get to look back and see how far you’ve come.

I think a five year old painted this -cringe-

2. Keywords Aren’t Just Important, They’re Everything

I’m sure you’ve read tons of seller guides, and pretty much every single one will emphasize the importance of keywords. But what they don’t tell you, is that keywords will absolutely make or break you. You can have the best damn product out there, but if people can’t find it, it’s game over. So do your research, use Marmalead (they have a free version) and see which keywords are actually getting engagement, compare keywords, and see what others are using. Make sure your keywords are specific to the individual product. For example, don’t use “poster” or “painting” for a digital printable; it will attract the wrong customers looking for the wrong product. Be specific!

Marmalead has tons of tutorials for you to use so get learning!

3. Advertising!?

Why does no one talk about Etsy advertising? What are they hiding??

The fact of the matter is: advertising isn’t for everyone. Or more specifically: not for every product. The first thing you’ll see when setting up Etsy advertising is the recommended “bid” amount. Your “bid” is how much you’re willing to pay for every single click on your ad, and you’re competing with other sellers for advertising spots. So the higher your bid, the more likely your product is to show up when some one searches its keywords.

So how do you know if it’s worth the cost? Do the math. For example, a physical poster print costs me an average $1.00 per click. With each poster print costing an average of $12, each click costs me about 8.3% of the total listing price. Now, one dollar per click can really add up and sales are not guaranteed, so in this case I would say the cost of advertising is not worth it.

Now, lets look at my current store front. My digital prints cost anywhere between 6 and 20 cents per click. With each digital print costing about $6, each click costs between 1-2% of the listing profit. While that can definitely still add up, the cost is worth the exposure it gets me. So far, the advertising has been paying for itself with the purchases it brings. Definitely worth it!

4. Competition is Brutal

Obviously you’re already aware that there are other sellers with similar products out there. What you may not have realized yet, is that Etsy is an absolute battle ground. If you go and search for one of your products using your keywords, you likely won’t make the first page. Maybe not even the first 10 pages. And the sellers on the first page? They’re in the hundreds or thousands of sales. So you can do one of two things with this information: you can let it bring you down OR you can use it as your inspiration. Everyone starts at the bottom, so be patient and work your butt off!

5. Social Media is NOT Important in the Beginning

You’re overwhelmed making new products, incredible photos, and finding keywords that actually work. You already have a lot on your plate. Yet every freaking article out there is telling you “Social media is the key to Etsy success! Do it now!”. While social media is incredible and has a lot of weight, it’s no use to you if you don’t have a full store and a well defined brand first. In addition, social media followers don’t come out of thin air, you have to earn them and that takes time. There’s no point in selling a brand to an audience of 20 people.

I tried to do it all at once and guess what? It took months to get a single Pinterest visitor a day. That’s time I could have stayed focused on my store.

Still want to get ahead? Use this time to gain followers on social media, but don’t worry about promoting yourself yet. Follow lots and lots of people and build yourself an audience first.

6. There are Hidden Start Up Costs

Sure, every listing is a whopping 20 cents and obviously you have to pay for any materials you need. You know this already. So where do the hidden costs come in?

First: if you ACTUALLY want to know what you’re doing, you should be taking courses. That’s right, paid courses. If you’re looking at a $100 Etsy seller course, that’s a steal. I recently purchased the Fuzzy and Birch seller course and it was Worth. Every. Penny. Other businesses spend thousands of dollars on blogging courses to boost their websites and businesses, because they work. Knowing what you’re doing is priceless.

Second: you’re going to make mistakes. Maybe you spend too much time or money making a product that never sells. Or you fill a custom order and WAY under-charge for your time (guilty). Maybe you’ll try Pinterest ads and blow a bunch of money without a single sale (guilty again). It adds up, and it’s okay!

Because guess what? Your average business start-up costs thousands, or tens of thousands of dollars. And they’re not guaranteed to succeed either. Spending 200-300 dollars on a start up is completely worth it. So don’t sweat it, and focus on making back your investment!

Like this article or have something to add? Let me know in the comments!


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