I don't claim to be an expert Etsy seller by any means, but I recently reached 1,000 sales on Etsy, which was a goal of mine for a long time. On top of that, I've been getting contacted by other sellers for advice, so I thought I'd share!
The question I get asked most often is: None of my products on Etsy are selling— how do I get noticed? You've set up a cohesive brand, taken clear pictures, and tagged all your products, but there are no sales coming in. Unfortunately, achieving the basics of starting a successful shop is not quite enough to make any sales on Etsy.
Selling on Etsy used to be easier But this didn't used to be the case— once upon a time, Etsy was a relatively small marketplace for anyone who wanted to share and sell their handmade goods. It was easy for sellers to get transactions because there were far fewer shops (limited by Etsy's stricter "handmade" rules), but over the years, Etsy has scaled, gone public, and many believe Etsy abandoned the "handmade" market they once supported (there is even a whiny blog devoted to it called Etsy Bitch).
The reality is that the Etsy market is now extremely saturated. Some numbers: there are more than 700k sellers, and, 400k products listed under "Greeting Cards' (my line of products).
When you start an Etsy shop, it's extremely unlikely you'll get many sales no matter how unique your products are, how professional your product photos are, and how amazing your story is. Sorry to be blunt. There are just far too many Etsy products to sift through, and the likelihood your product will show up in an organic search for "blue vase", "wooden chair," or "cute greeting card" is extremely unlikely.
But!!! That does not mean you should abandon your Etsy shop! Click the link to read on...
Many believe Etsy abandoned the "handmade" market they once supported
Despite such a saturated market, Etsy is still an amazing resource to get your products online and get your business off the ground. It's easy to navigate, and the cost to start a shop is quite low (20 cents/item/ 4 months— you don't lose much if your listings don't sell).The crowded space just means you'll have to do some marketing. I don't have any magic formulas, but this is what worked for me.
1. Niche products: My Etsy first gained attention because of my most niche product: my FRIENDS TV show "You're My Lobster" card. This product was much more likely to show up in searches when Etsy shoppers typed "Ross & Rachel", "Pheobe," or "Central Perk" than if a shopper searched, "love card for partner". The card circulated around Pinterest, and soon, my sales shot up. It's still my most popular card today.
Make sure to add tags to your Etsy listings that are very specific. For example, my Otter Birthday Card has these tags:
Think outside the box; my card doesn't have dolphins, aquariums, or whales in it, but they are related to otters. Try to limit 1/2-1/3 of your tags for generic words such as "cute", "yellow," "funny," and leave the majority for really random words a buyer may use to search for something specific.
2. Features & giveaways:
The biggest jumps in my sales history has been through social media sites, both passive and active. (Passive example: My Koala Valentine's Day Card got featured on Buzzfeed. Active example: I contacted Australian lifestyle blogger Dunne With Style and we coordinated an Instagram giveaway.) Obviously, passively means you can't do anything about it, but definitely be sure to actively contact bloggers and the Instafamous for giveaways and features. (I should probably follow my own advice... I tried to set a goal to contact 5 blogggers a month but I fail at that :/).
3. Social media:
It takes a LOT of time to keep up with all the social media sites. Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, blogging... I'd advise you to dip your toes into all of them and then choose 2 to focus on. I have an account on each site, but I focus most of my time on Facebook and Instagram, because those are the mediums I enjoy the most, and have found the most engagement. Whichever one you choose, follow accounts that sell products similar to yours and engage- like, comment, and retweet.
4. Craft shows
Ugh, the un-ironed tablecloth and failed paper logo sign still bothers me.
This is a relatively new space for me, but such an exciting one. I was a first time vendor at a show in May of this year, at SF Etsy's Summer Indie Emporium, and I'm participating in Renegade Craft Fair next weekend. I have really high expectations for the fair next weekend; the Indie Emporium was a huge success for me. I was on my feet meeting people for the entirety of the fair, sold out of multiple card designs, and heard so much positive feedback about my products.
Not only was the event a huge success— what came after the fair was just as rewarding. My booth was featured on multiple websites, I got so many newsletter sign-ups, and networked with a lot of great business contacts and other creatives. If you have craft fairs in your area definitely apply to attend. Booth fees are usually $100-$250- which may sound steep, but if you have an eye-catching booth carrying great products, you'll likely make it back (and then some)! (Don't have local craft fairs? Look into selling at Farmers or flea markets!)
5. Advertising I have the least experience with this. I have advertised through Facebook (free ad credits), Etsy promoted listings, and I know my products have (somehow) showed up on Google Product Listing Ads. How effective are these? I don't know. It's on my to-do list to learn how to crunch numbers and do some data analysis... but I'd say that the cheapest way is to utilize hashtags on Instagram and name your Pins well so they come up in searches :) Maybe when I learn more SEO I will blog about it too...
Bottom line: Merely starting an Etsy shop with no effort to market is not quite enough to make products sell these days. Use Etsy as a platform to sell your products, but don't rely on it to get any sales. Once you set up, don't spend much of your time building it. Focus your efforts elsewhere; make your brand known through learning SEO optimization, getting products out at local events, and initiate a greater online presence outside of Etsy.