Etsy Seller Mistakes I’ve Made (So You Don’t Have To)

I’ve put together a long and useful list of mistakes I’ve made on Etsy over the last five years to serve as a learning curve for online sellers everywhere!

Etsy Seller Mistakes I've Made (So You Don't Have To)

Creative business is based on personal passion, and therefore, your perspective is almost always too close. If you’re the owner of a website or online shop, you probably know exactly what I mean. The business feels more like it’s “in here, in front of me” in your home, rather than “out there” serving the world. And that’s something you’re better off correcting as soon as possible.

For creatives, it can be very difficult to see business past the tip of their own nose. This is why I love group coaching and large classrooms. It can be jarring to get direct advice on a project you’re insanely close to. However, it’s much easier to identify a mistake on someone else, and then apply it to your own business. Things feel much less personal that way.

So today, I’m outing myself with some Etsy seller mistakes that I’ve made! I’ll show you what I’ve done wrong, why it wasn’t the best approach, and then how I corrected it.

CreativeLive Etsy Banner

I also want to pair this info with an exciting announcement! I’m going back to CreativeLive for an epic Etsy extravaganza titled, How to Turn Your Etsy Shop into a Sales Machine. Click the RSVP button to register – it’s always FREE when you tune in live (March 3-5).

My Mistake: Poor Product Photography

I opened the Energy Shop on Etsy in 2010, and I used to take product photographs on kitchen and bath towels inside with no flash. I thought scale was important back then, so I added things into the photograph, such as safety pins and dimes. (I wish I was joking!)

Product photography is the most important place to invest your time, energy and resources during the beginning stages of your online business. Your photographs are the first thing the customer will notice about your shop, and you can teach yourself to take great photos! The best part about self-taught photography is that the handmade maker’s eye becomes the lens through which the world gets to view the product. Your photography must be on par because it’s the only way to get customers to start clicking through your shop.

Etsy Seller Mistakes Product Photography

I’ve made every mistake in the book when it comes to product photography, from staging my bracelets on purple hand towels to shooting extreme (and unidentifiable) close-ups. For the first year and a half of owning my business, I let the backdrop drop out of my photos! I could have easily corrected this, but I didn’t identify it as an issue.

Off-center + short backdrop
Off-center, short backdrop, lots of shadows

Take a look at your current product photography, and ask yourself …

  • Is the lighting consistent throughout your listings?
  • Is the product for sale centered and serving as the focal point?
  • Is the photograph easy to “read” – simple, uncluttered and easy to understand? 
  • If all the customer had to go on was this photograph, would they want to buy?

Further reading: The Do’s and Don’ts of Product Photography

My Mistake: Seller-Focused Copywriting

Copywriting is what you might already be calling a “listing” or “description.” It’s when the text you use helps advertise your product. Moreover, it’s the point in the sales process where the customer has metaphorically picked up an item of interest and asked you to give them a little more information. Your listing or description should absolutely help you make the sale.

I’ll summarize this topic with one simple rule: Never write anything in a listing that you would not say to a customer if they were standing in front of you. This goes for title stuffing, using random keywords that don’t make any sense, and the way you word the text in your listing. How many times have you seen an Etsy title that goes something like this:

One of a kind handmade jewelry gemstone Mother’s Day beaded bracelet for meditation, stacking trendy arm candy Anniversary for girls and women Energy Shop red white blue

Imagine you were at an art show and a potential customer picked up your item and turned to you for more information. The title for your item is how you would start the conversation. Never in a million years would you turn to your customer and say:

“Oh that? Yes, that’s a one of a kind handmade jewelry gemstone. Mother’s Day! Beaded bracelet for meditation, stacking trendy arm candy. Anniversary! For girls and women. Energy Shop! Red! White! Blue!”

Why wouldn’t you say that in person? We all know why! It would send your visitor running, and you would lose their interest forevermore.

Marketing and copywriting tips for more online sales

A few other things you probably wouldn’t discuss with a customer in real life …

  • The story of how you made the product
  • A description of where you made the product
  • A summary of the materials you used
  • A detailed description of your process

Why not? Because it’s all about you, and the customer’s not there to shop for you! They’re there to shop for themselves, and the one simple question they’re asking is: What’s in it for me?

Further reading: 5 Surprising Reasons Customers Aren’t Buying

My Mistake: Visiting the Etsy Forums

The handmade internet forums drive me 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.

To create success online, you have to rewrite the story of your business. The typical business story in the handmade forums goes like this:

“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 Etsy sellers might tell their 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.

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?

Further readingHow to Make More Sales on Etsy

My Mistake: Relying on Etsy for Sales

In fact, I’m flat out against expecting anything from Etsy at all.

If you’re not making the number of sales you want, that’s because nobody’s seeing your work. But, it doesn’t have to stay that way! I hear so many people griping about what Etsy’s not doing for their business, but guess what? Etsy’s never been the solution!

Complaining about Etsy is like being mad at a shovel because it didn’t make a garden appear in your backyard.

Etsy is a tool that will help you build a successful creative business, not the source of one. That shovel’s clearly not going to build your garden, and being angry at it everyday certainly won’t get you any closer to having a fruitful garden!

Likewise, listing a product on Etsy does not entitle you to a thriving business. I can show you EXACTLY how to use Etsy as the fantastic tool it is without relying on the site for sales and revenue. Sign up below to learn more. Here’s to your success!

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  • Love this post Lisa! Especially, about the Etsy forums… it’s like a black hole in there! I’ve RSVP’d to your Creative Live course and can’t wait to watch and learn even more from you. I run a digital Etsy store selling printable planners. Will the course be mainly geared towards handmade craft businesses?

    PS. I purchased the 2016 Your Best Year and I absolutely loved it! It’s jam-packed with so much good stuff and just killed off any overwhelm for me! Thank you so much for creating that gem!

    Hope you’re having a good week,

  • Haha, your post made me laugh because it’s so true.

    How easy it is to blame the world for you not having success instead of working your butt of to make it happen!

    I know i do it too sometimes, so thanks for the reminder! 🙂

  • Nice post, Lisa! And I have to say I laughed out loud picturing someone selling their product with the “stuffed title” at a craft market. Energy shop! Red! White! Blue! :-)))

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