Selling on Etsy

Why most new Etsy sellers fail

by Michaela fong

Selling on Etsy

Why most new Etsy sellers fail

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I am a small European town gal with big dreams who immigrated to Canada and built a multi-six-figure business from my living room floor and kitchen counter! I accidentally grew it into a small business community and became a small business educator along the way.

Now am here to empower, teach & inspire you to grow your business and create the life of your dreams with strategy, confidence & without burnout.

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…and I did, too, when I first started! I will be honest – My very first Etsy shop failed. And so did the second one. I was one of those people who preferred to learn from my own mistakes and complain about them, instead of learning from those who had already walked the path. “I will figure it out,” I thought to myself. Sure I did; it took me four years what I was able to later accomplish in 2 months. If I weren’t so stubborn when I started my first small business in 2015, I would save myself years of making mistakes and costly decisions out of my lack of knowledge that only brought me frustration and disappointment. Fast forward years & thousands of orders later, I now help other Etsy sellers to grow their Etsy shop with strategy, confidence and without burnout. And let me tell you – I see new Etsy sellers making all these mistakes daily. So here I am writing this blog to save you time. If you do nothing but fix these mistakes, I can guarantee you that your Etsy shop will transform. Ready? Pull out your notepad, and let’s get into it!

REASON #1: Trying to be like others instead of striving to be different

Chances are that there are already established shops selling similar products to yours. Etsy is a marketplace, and if you want to get sales – it’s critical to understand how selling on the marketplace works.

Did you ever try to search for a product on Etsy? If so, you probably noticed that several shops sell almost identical products in virtually any niche. Even the style of their pictures looks the same. And if your product & its presentation looks the same as established shops – you might be self-sabotaging yourself. Your products get lost in between hundreds of similar listings.

Think about it – why would someone buy from you when there are already established sellers with a lot of reviews selling products that look just like yours? If you don’t differentiate yourself strategically – the only difference Etsy shoppers will see is the price. You don’t want to be price shopped. It’s not sustainable, profitable, nor enjoyable. And quite frankly, price does not always convice buyers to shop from you. On the other hand, knowing what makes your products different/better than your competition and making it your superpower makes you stand out from the crowd. And standing out from the crowd is a key to getting noticed in competitve marketplace like Etsy.

Takeaway: Instead of trying to blend in, strive to stand out

REASON #2: Posting few listings and hoping for sales to come

GUILTY! I made this mistake in my very first Etsy shop, and what I learned is that patience & hope are important, but it’s definitely NOT where sales come from.

It’s no coincidence that most successful Etsy shops have a lot of listings in their shop. Why is that? Well, because not all of your products and listings will perform well. I am guessing that when you are just starting, you are trying your best to figure out how to fill out your listing correctly. So if you uploaded a few listings and did not even optimize them, it is unlikely that Etsy shoppers will even find your products.

Plus, if you only post eight listings, you give yourself only eight chances to determine whether it works and whether people want to buy what you have. Also, from an SEO perspective – Etsy is clear that adding new listings to your shop often can boost your shop in Etsy search. 

To put it simply – the more listings you have, the more chances you have for Etsy shoppers to find your product, and the faster you learn what works and what doesn’t. If you currently have listings that haven’t been selling for months, it will not change unless you change something about them.

Takeaway: Keep the hope & patience + be proactive, optimize your Etsy shop & market your products (at least until you start getting consistent sales).

REASON #3: Guessing keywords and hoping that customers will find their products

Understanding how to use keywords in your Etsy shop & optimizing your shop correctly is necessary if you want organic sales from Etsy search. If your shop isn’t keyword optimized, it’s almost impossible for your products to be found by Etsy shoppers, especially if you are selling in a competitive niche.

I used to say “I am just not good at keywords, I have no idea what I’m doing”. Just like anything else in life that you started to learn, whether that is new sport or new language, it is going to take practice until you get better. I get it, it can be overwhelming. But only if you don’t have a plan and are trying to guess and figure it out on your own. There is TONS of resources to help you learn how to use kewords in your Etsy shop. Growing small business includes doing things & learning things that we are not good at, especially in the beginning stages when you are bootstarping it and can’t afford to hire help in areas where you are not proficient.

I know it’s not easy. It took me months to understand what long-tail-keyword even is, how to find it and how to use it in my shop to get my products found in Etsy search. If you are reading this and don’t know what “long-tail-keyword” means, we have some homework to do before we can hear consistent cha-chings. That’s good news – you identified one thing you can focus your efforts on and be proactive instead of just being hopeful.

Takeaway: Take time to learn how to use keywords in your shop correctly. It does not have to be perfect, you will learn as you go. But if you start making informed decisions about your keywords instead of just guessing it, you will give yourself much higher chance for your product to be found in Etsy search.

PS: Are you new to Etsy keywords and need help? Download my free Etsy SEO cheat sheet to get started here

REASON #4: Treating their shop like a hobby and expecting to have results like a business

OUCH! This was a big one for me. When I treated my small business like a hobby – I got “hobby-like” results. I never seemed to find time to do hard things (like learning keywords or understanding my ideal customer); instead, I was constantly starting new projects that excited me. Don’t get me wrong; there is absolutely nothing wrong with having your small business as a hobby. But it’s important to understand that there is a difference between making products and being able to sell the products. I often see small business owners expecting to get more sales without being willing to put in more deliberate effort into the “selling part” of their business. When I started treating my Etsy shop like a business, I started to have more sales. The level of commitment (time, energy, effort) is always directly reflected in results.

Takeaway: Different results will require a different approach. If you are expecting to have consistent sales in your Etsy shop, be honest and ask yourself – do you treat your Etsy shop like a hobby? Or do you treat it like a business? Do you need to change where you spend your time/energy/resources to be able to get the results you are hoping for?

Reason #5: Not considering market needs and only selling what they find cute

Wait, what?! Isn’t the point of having your small business to be free to sell what you are passionate about? Kind of, but unfortunately, passion for your product is not the only thing that goes into the recipe for success on Etsy. As I mentioned earlier, Etsy is a marketplace. If you chose Etsy as a selling platform because you want to leverage from customers who are shopping there, then you’ll need to consider the needs of the platform. Without doing market research before you spend time, money and effort on your products, you won’t know whether it even has selling potential on Etsy.

This might be a hard one to admit. It took me four years to understand that having a cute product is not enough to get sales. Just because you think it’s cute, I think it’s cute, and your friends and family agree, it doesn’t mean that there is enough demand for it on Etsy.

Takeaway: Understanding market needs and keeping them in mind when creating your products is important if you hope to get consistent sales. If you are serious about your small business – please don’t ignore this.

Reason #6: Not having a plan with tangible action

I didn’t think I needed a business plan when I first started because I didn’t understand the purpose of the plan. What would I even put in there? I had no idea what I was doing. Well, here is the thing: a plan prevents you from getting overwhelmed trying to do all the things at once; it helps you to stay proactive instead of just being hopeful. It gives you clarity and allows you to stay on track. It prevents you from getting distracted and keeps you accountable. The plan helps you to focus on your action instead of short-term results. The plan allows you to look back and evaluate what worked and didn’t, so you can plan and do better. Without a plan, you are likely going in a circle, not having a clue what to do next and why nothing seems to work. If you still don’t have a plan for your small business and have no idea how to make one, read this blog post to help you get started.

Takeaway: If you still don’t have a plan, it’s time to make one. Trying to grow a business without a plan is like waking up every morning without considering any of your commitments and just doing whatever you feel like at the moment every day of your life.

If you’d like to learn more about how to grow your Etsy shop with a strategy, confidence and without burnout, I made this free starter guide for you:

Etsy success tips
How to get orders on Etsy printable guide

And that’s it, really! Working with thousands of Etsy sellers and reviewing countless Etsy shops – all the most common mistakes I see fall into one of these categories. Did you recognize yourself in any of these points? If so, I’d love to hear which one! There is no judgment here; you are here to learn, and I made all these mistakes myself. It’s my honour to be part of your journey and share my lessons with you. If you are not following along on my Instagram yet – check out my account at @smallbizbabescommunity for daily tips and small business advice.

Talk soon,

Michaela

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