The Secret to Selling on Etsy

Every now and then I peek into the Etsy forums to gather information. It’s a good place to crowdsource… tons of people killing time on the internet who LOVE to share their opinion with you.

Invariably I see a thread asking about what the secret is to sell on Etsy, how people get so many sales, how much to relist in a day, etc. And I think I am fully qualified to answer these questions. I have an active Etsy shop, generally selling multiple items per day. I also used to work at Etsy, so I have an inside view of how the whole system works.

It turns out the secret to selling on Etsy is the same as selling anywhere: hard work and good products.

Ok, maybe that’s not the most helpful answer. So allow me to elaborate with a list of tips.

  • Take better photos.
    I don’t care how long you spent on your photos. They’re not good enough. Mine sure as heck aren’t. You need to do more than just snap an accurate picture of the product. You need to sell it. I’ve seen a lot of Etsy sellers complain that they shouldn’t have to be photographers. BS. You’re a salesman, and your photos are the biggest part of your sales pitch. If you aren’t willing to put serious and continuous effort into them then you’re not serious about selling online.
    For some quick tips, check out my article, Common Photo Mistakes and How to Avoid Them
  • Make something people want.
    Do market research. And no, posting a forum thread titled “do you think people want to buy ____” doesn’t count. Browse the sold items. What’s selling? Read blogs related to what you’re making. What are they featuring? Does your stuff fit in with that? Or are you still making stirrup pants? Stop. Stirrup pants hurt us all.
    Look at not just styles but also what people are selling. Where is there a void in the market? Fill it.
  • Make something other people aren’t.
    I hate to break it to you, but if you’re making snap bibs out of Amy Butler fabric you’re already at a disadvantage. Why? Because there are already 100 other people selling them. It’s like putting a Starbucks up on every corner and then wondering why you’re only getting 1/4 of the foot traffic.

    Do an Etsy search for your product. If you make bibs, search “bibs.” How many of the search results are the same as what you make? What makes yours different? It’s going to have to be something. Better photos, better prices, better selection, better construction, different style, whatever. But it’s got to be something or you’ll just be lost with the other 20,000 search results.

  • Build a cohesive line.
    Lets say you make pouches. Rectangular zippy pouches out of pretty fabrics. Great. So now you’re “that girl who makes pouches.” It’s pretty nondescript, and when I search for “pouch” on Etsy I’m going to get a ton of other people’s stuff, which I might like better.

    Pick a common theme and run with it. Make pouches in different shapes. Now you’re “that girl who makes round pouches,” and that already sets you apart from other people. Or maybe all of your fabric features skulls on it. Or flowers. Or math equations. Or your pouches all come with built in flashlights. Whatever. Transform yourself to “that person who makes generic” to “that person who makes specific.” You’ll stick in customers’ minds better, be easier to find, and sell more.

  • Give up.
    The flip side of building a line and putting all this effort into your products is you have to be able to let it go. If it’s not working out, you may just need to move on to something else. Not all of your ideas are going to be million dollar sell outs. That’s OK.

    A few years ago I had a line of jewelry that I liked, my friend liked, it went well together without being boring… and it didn’t sell. Anywhere. And for whatever reason I just kept trying to sell it other places instead of moving on or changing it. Needless to say it didn’t work, and I’ve still got a ton of stock for it lying around on a shelf. If you really want to sell, at some point you have to evaluate what you’re doing and change if it’s not working.

  • Take better photos.
    No really, it’s important. And yours still aren’t good enough.

Those are the big secrets. As far as relisting and other nonsense… I relist whenever things sell out, which is once a day or so. By selling something unique I find that even days later I’m still on the front page of search results

There’s also a lot of chatter about twittering/blogging, and whether those are good at driving sales. Yes and no. If you have something interesting to say, eventually people will read it, and if you’ve got your products showcased next to what you’re saying then it’s free advertising. But starting a blog and just posting when you list a new item isn’t interesting to anyone except you.

But it all comes back to your products. You can blog, twitter, and photograph all you want but it isn’t going to do a damned thing if you’re not selling an interesting product at the right price. So get off the Etsy forums and take a hard look at your products. Then fix them and try again.

259 thoughts on “The Secret to Selling on Etsy

    1. saroj says:

      Thanks a million. Great advice.

  1. Ira Mency says:

    Can’t believe I just found this, linked in an old Etsy email , pointing to the forum, pointing to this blog…..you are so right. I have a shelf of that jewelry myself. :( Thanks for your candid words, I’m off to take better pictures now.

  2. norma says:

    Love this! doing business is so hard. it’s been almost 7 years for me. and it’s not easy to do. but it can be done! do your research and don’t give up!

  3. ElizabethMD says:

    This is soo VERY true. I constantly feel like need to retake my photos. I usually do too. I als use GIMP, which is a great free kinda version of photoshop!

  4. Martin says:

    What do you think of these photos? http://www.etsy.com/shop/martinrebello Thanks for all the advice!

  5. Mindy says:

    Good advice, I have had trouble with the photos but am slowly getting it. I have sold a few piece as a result of my site and everyone says the stuff is prettier than pictured

  6. I use Picnik for photo editing. It is very quick and useful. Just go to picnik.com and you can do all different kinds of things to your photos.

  7. Peonies says:

    Great article. Thanks! Photos are very important.

  8. iramency says:

    I’m off to fix my photos now so informative. So true.

  9. […] doen, omdat je er meer plezier uit haalt, maar ook omdat je een betere marktpositie hebt. Op Kellbot vonden wij deze ware uitspraak hierover: “I hate to break it to you, but if you’re making […]

  10. StudioDivin says:

    I love this article! What about my photos? http://www.etsy.com/shop/studiodivin

  11. Michelle says:

    Great advice thank you.
    I am absolutely inspired by the amazing items for sale on Etsy. In awe of everyone’s talents. wow. So much so that my husband and I would like to develop a range to sell on Etsy too.
    But please forgive the obvious question… How can I access the most recently sold items on Etsy? I have searched hi and lo… I don’t have a ETSY shop yet because I am trying to work out what to make and sell. Is that the problem? Do I need to be an ETSY seller to get this kind of information?
    It seems like a catch 22. Can see what sell until you are selling…? Am I correct in thinking that?
    Any assistance or advice would be much appreciated.
    Sorry, for the dunce-like question. Blushh…

  12. Jean Marques says:

    Bravo. Great suggestions. Many people think it’s list and sell, list and sell, when in actuality it requires way more work and diligence. Well said chap! Love the dinos keep up the great work!

  13. natalie says:

    GO TO
    [redacted link to an etsy shop]

    editor’s note: Spamming a link in my comments is NOT an effective way to drive traffic to your shop.

  14. Chelsea says:

    So glad that I read this before listing items on Etsy! It pays to do your research ;) Thanks for the advice!

  15. Marilyn says:

    Yes, so true! So far I have a “group” of people who have been most enthusiastic, but yes, know I need better photos-and the storytelling seems to be important as well

  16. Jenna says:

    This is a great post. I definitely need to put a lot more work into my photos! I’ve linked to this post from my blog.

  17. Rita says:

    New to Esty, have been an Ebay seller. How can I view items that have sold on Esty to see what is a reasonable asking price for an item? thanks in advance…

  18. Anne says:

    thanks, I needed the reminder that my pictures SUCK! I’m working on them today! Thanks for being so blunt about things, we crafter and artists need to be reminded to put our day dreaming feet back on the ground sometimes.

  19. Mark says:

    Oh, thank you. It’s so helpful!

  20. Giftbearer says:

    When you say to search sold items do you mean that there’s a central sold items section on Etsy somewhere?

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