Can I be totally honest with you? On Handmade Forums

The handmade internet forums drive me crazy. Batshit crazy. I used to visit them to research new blog posts and product- and seller-issues, but I had to stop for my own sanity. Everybody has the same problems and, when they’re not viciously attacking one another, they seemingly chase their issues all day, every day. I could make a few of their issues go away easily, such as …

Q: How do I get everything done and manage it all?
A: Get out of the forums.

Q: How do I earn more money?
A: Get out of the forums.

Q: How do I make more sales?
A: Get out of the forums.

“Get out of the forums” is the answer to most forum conundrums, but they’ll never listen. However, a few of their issues require a more detailed answer, such as …

How do I get found on Etsy?

The short answer is: you don’t. You’re one in a million shops, and that number grows bigger every day. In fact, Etsy stopped releasing statistics on how many active shops are in the marketplace, though they continue to report how much the website sells as a whole every month. I suspect this is because the numbers aren’t going to make any seller happy … if you divide the number of shops by the amount of sales, the average shop is making less than $1,000 per year.

Here’s another toughie:

How do I compete in a saturated market?

Other versions of this question:

  • How do I compete with a shop selling at lower prices?
  • How do I compete with resellers?
  • How do I compete with the new Etsy regulations (that allow sellers to hire help)?

Here’s another short answer: you don’t. In my four years of business, I have never once competed with another jewelry designer or blogger. The concept doesn’t even make sense to me, but online sellers get stuck here.

I have a few questions: What makes you think your potential customers have ever even heard of your competition? And why are you focused on what they’re doing? If you put that same amount of thought and creative energy into your own business, you’d be soaring by now!

Let’s be honest, it’s quite easy to click around the internet and blame the competition because you’re not getting sales. It’s quite another thing to venture out into the world of marketing and advertising, take the reigns on your business and drive it toward success. Am I right?

Can I Be Totally Honest with You? |

You have to rewrite the story of your business.

Here’s one way to tell your story:

“My customers can’t find me because there are hundreds of resellers crowding up the marketplace. The competition hires cheap help, and who can compete with those prices? If it weren’t for all this danged competition and this saturated market, my business would take off!”

That sure is one way to look at it. So in other words, if every other seller got off the flipping internet, your business could finally get ahead? Hmmmm. Not likely.

Here’s another way you might tell your story:

“I have an amazing product that is of excellent quality. There’s definitely a market for it,  as evidenced by all the other sellers in this niche! I know that if I could get my online storefront in front of the right customers, it would take off. How do I find my customers and point them to my shop?”

Seriously, how much better does that feel? It’s an active approach: one where you’re in control of your shop’s destiny rather than a victim of the marketplace.

Here’s what I’ve learned.

The more I actively try to help other sellers, the more I realize that many people insist on keeping their problems.

Did you ever have a friend who was going through a hard time, and you supported her, listened to her and tried to help her work it out? But the next day, she called back with the exact same problem still unresolved. She repeated the same questions and needed you to give her the same advice all over again.

Suddenly, you realize your friend is on a continuous loop with her problem because she doesn’t mind keeping it. We sometimes get very comfortable with our obstacles, for one reason or another:

  • We like the nurturing attention it brings from the outside world;
  • We’re addicted to the dramatics an unsolved problem adds to our life; or (most likely)
  • We feel overwhelmed, uncertain and too scared to take the first step in the right direction.

Telling everyone else in the world your problems simply dissolves your productive energy. It’s a form of complaining. And while there’s definitely a time and place for complaining (it’s the prequel to change), you have to realize that some people complain for a living.

It’s what they’re doing today, because it’s what they did yesterday and what they’re going to do tomorrow. It’s the equivalent to chasing your tail or running on a hamster wheel. If you don’t use your complaints to learn what needs to change in your life, then you’re getting nowhere fast.

You’re more than that.

I’m telling you, it’s the secret to your success. Just start solving your own problems. Alleviate your own complaints. You don’t know how? Learn. Somebody’s done it before, and you can do it too.

I look around at my peers, my partners and my affiliates, and I realize that the one thing we all have in common is this: we stuck with it. We kept building. When we were faced with an issue, we too complained, but then we examined the obstacle and hurdled it.

Creating your own business is not easy. You have to do A LOT of things that you’ve never done before. And for many, as soon as the paved road ends, they stop traveling toward the destination. You have to want your destination SO HARD that you’re willing to carve your own path.

Are you willing to carve your own path?

No more passivity in business! Stick with me instead. I’m going to teach you how to go get what you want: more customers, more sales and more income. Sign up below and let’s keep in touch.

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  • What an excellent article! In the past I’ve had a few of those ‘stuck in a loop’ friends you mention. Wonderfully creative women who simply can’t get out of their own way! I’ve moved on and limit my exposure to them. My business continues to grow, albeit slowly. I look to see what others are doing but I don’t compare myself to them – I’m too busy doing my own uniquely, creative thing! Thank you too for telling people to step away from the forums! What a time-sucking vortex they are!
    Keep up the good work!
    ~ Joan ~

  • Can I get a hell yes?! Seriously, +1 (scratch that, +1 million) for everything you said. It’s crazy to me that people ask for help, only to argue, complain and make excuses when people try to actually help them.

    Continuing to do the same thing will just bring more of the same. If you want change, do things differently.

  • Hi Lisa,

    That was one of the best articles that I’ve read in a long time. You are saying so many things that I’ve wanted to say to people that I hear and see moaning about lack of sales, re-sellers etc, on Etsy in particular. I’ve never said it because you can tend to be slapped back sometimes if you speak your mind.

    And you are right too, in saying that so much time is wasted on forums when you could actually be doing something for yourself.

    You’ve said everything so well, and I agree totally.

    Thank you for saying it.


  • Amen! I’m glad someone said it out loud! I stopped visiting forums a long time ago. The negativity was overwhelming! After a while I realized no matter how much advice you gave people it was just where they wanted to be and it wasn’t where I wanted to be so Peace Out! Also, I’ve been selling online for about three years and slowly but surely I’ve been making progress. This is my AHA year! I got serious about a business plan. I’ve been using Your Best Year Workbook to keep me on track (thanks Lisa!). I realize I can’t do it all so I am looking for interns to help me in my business while I help them see what it takes to run a business.
    And I think most of all you have to own it! This isn’t a hobby. If your business isn’t an overnight success it doesn’t make it any less valuable. Tend to it, nurture it, if something isn’t working, change it. It will grow.

  • This is an excellent post Lisa and so true! I have a friend just like that who continually complains about his health issues. I tell him to go to the Dr. and start getting those issues under control… the next day we are back at square one… he makes me crazy!


  • OMG Lisa, I love this post so hard!

    You’ve really nailed it with this one.

    People who complain frequently without taking any action to fix their problems are addicted to complaining. It’s their form of procrastination and they don’t what to let it go for fear of failing if they really DID try.

    People who don’t want to help themselves will do whatever they can to cling as many other people with them as they remain stuck in negative-ville.

    I refer to these types of people as success-sucking vampires, and if you aren’t careful and avoid them when you can, they will try to turn you into one too.

    • 😀 Thanks, Megan! I agree, especially because complaining can be contagious. It’s hard to spend much time around people who are addicted to it.

  • Never have I seen such a well worded article that hits home with my own belief system. I hate reading the forums and only hit the highlights of what changes Etsy is making, and how it is going to affect my store, and what I can do. Every time Etsy makes a change, the forums are full of people that say the changes have caused their sales to tank. I focus my energy on how I can get sales, SEO, social media, and so forth. My daily question: how can I drive sales to my website, and Etsy. I have a favorite quote I love the repeat every day:

    “There is no use trying, said Alice; one can’t believe impossible things.”

    “I dare say you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

    – Lewis Carroll

  • Love, love this article! Thank you! Since Etsy announced their changes, I’ve heard lots of grumbling but I think competition will only make my store better. I’m not going to hope for someone else to make my happy ending. That’s my job!

  • OMG! You hit the nail on the head with this one, Lisa! My friend I were talking just the other day about telling your story over and over again just creates a rut that you and only you can get yourself out of.
    Off to share this post!!

  • Lisa, you hit the nail on the head with this one! I finally had to stop reading the forums on Etsy because the negativity was so overwhelming…everyone running around like Henny Penny yelling, “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!” every time Etsy made a change. It dawned on me that the most successful sellers on Etsy were far too busy selling and building their businesses to spend hours on the Forums complaining. Thanks for perfectly verbalizing my feelings about it…now I only go to the Forums if I have a question or need some answers about shipping, or SEO, etc. Great post!

  • Hi Lisa,

    I’m really enjoying these posts and your honesty about the forums and what you make. I’m curious how you feel about spending time making Treasury Lists (that can suck up a ton of time). Is that time just as bad as the forums? Do Treasury Lists help you sell more?


  • Hi Lisa,
    You’ve really started the new year off with a bang! And you’re sure right about how starting an online business means you have to do a lot of things you’ve never done before. Since I took the BcBCB course last fall, I have a huge long list of things I’ve put in place for my business, most of which are things I thought I’d never do. Sometimes it seems I’m moving at a snail’s pace, but when I actually look back at all I’ve accomplished in a few months it’s pretty amazing (I seem to be tooting my own horn here, sorry). I’ve found that the other members of the two teams I’m on have been tremendously helpful, and I just discovered that Handmadeology has a team, somehow that had escaped me. I’m SO looking forward to your upcoming Advertising and Exposure because that’s what I’m working on night and day every minute that I’m not at school teaching. And I LOVE my little business and suspect that’s what it takes~~you have to love not only making/creating but all the other parts and pieces that make up running a successful online business. I feel like I have found my niche for the next decade (being one of those people who’s done a lot of things).

  • Thank you for all the wonderful, inspiring wisdom you provide! I just found your blog today and am thrilled to be reading articles that truly resonate with what I’m thinking and trying to do. I am brand new to etsy and feel very lost when it comes to making a go of my new business. Just quit my awful job as a waitress and really want my venture to take off!

  • You are SO right. I end up in the forums when I am feeling overwhelmed and uncertain. I end up wasting time, getting no answers, and trading “likes” (which does nothing). Sometimes it is nice to get a numbers boost, but totally a time suck.

  • I’m not running a business at the moment but your words really resonated with me in every area of my life, they are so true. I learnt a long time ago to stay away from motivation vampires. My daughter and her colleagues decided to stop any moaning at work and stay positive or say nothing and it really worked. She now enjoys going to work and everyone is more productive. Thank you.

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