How to Sell on Etsy: 6 Mistakes I Made With My First Etsy Shop I presented a Webinar on Saturday about how to start an Etsy shop and make $1,000/month selling what you love, and I couldn't get through all the material that I wanted to get through. After all, I only had 45 minutes (and I went way over that!) and there's just so much to talk about and learn when it comes to kicking butt on Etsy. Here are a few lessons I learned with my first Etsy shop failure.

1. I Was Selling to Everybody (And Therefore Nobody)

Think back to your last purchase for a moment. Recall what it was, where you bought it, and get into the zone… Then think about why you bought it. Other than gifts, and with very few exceptions, we purchase things or choose specific brands or companies to buy from because they resonated with us.

With my first Etsy shop, I made some handmade jewelry and listed the products without a single thought about who I wanted to buy them. No wonder it failed! How can you sell something to somebody if you have no idea who that somebody is? You're just blindly fumbling around in the dark hawking wares to anybody that will buy them – which results in nobody buying them. That is less effective than trying to sell prenatal vitamins to a teenage football player.

With my current shop, I filled a need that I had myself – that's why I had created the product to begin with. I was a bride-to-be at the time and the product would be appealing to the same. I knew how to use language in my descriptions and take photos and create product designs in general that would actually resonate with the people I wanted to buy my products. One of the biggest reasons most Etsy shops fail is because they aren't specific enough about who they are selling to.

2. I Didn't Set Myself Apart

In 2008, I started a shop with handmade jewelry. You might think that I made a mistake. After all, handmade jewelry is easily one of the most crowded niches out there, right? But I don't think that was the problem at all. After all, my new shop has a ton of competitors (including big ones, like Vistaprint!) and that's not been a problem.

Maria's shop has thousands – or even tens of thousands – of competitors just on Etsy alone, and she makes a generous full-time living from Etsy. Her boyfriend does, too, in the same crowded niche. No, the mistake wasn't the product I chose to sell. My mistake was the fact that I did nothing to differentiate my shop.

See, there's plenty of room in Etsy for everybody; especially if you're smarter than me with my first mistake. But you'll be drowned out if you don't differentiate yourself. What is your unique selling proposition? How are you different from the next shop? Because you are… you just need to communicate it.

3. I Was Willy-Nilly With My Pricing

When I started that first shop, I was so arbitrary when I chose the price I'd charge. I simply looked at what I'd created and decided that $20 seemed fair. You may think that I'm right. $20 for a pair of handmade earrings? Awesome! But you would be wrong because you know no details about what I made. In reality, I used semi-precious stones and sterling silver. The quality of what I'd created was far higher than the price tag reflected. If anybody found my products in the listing results, something wouldn't compute.

If you think I'm crazy, bear with me for a sec while I tell you about this nifty story from Robert Cialdini's book, Influence. The author's friend had a jewelry shop (apt example in this case but it applies to every other product, too) and was holding a sale for some product she was having a really hard time moving. She had some turquoise jewelry that she just couldn't sell, so she asked her employee to half the price. The employee misunderstood and doubled the price, and this same jewelry that wouldn't sell at half the price on sale flew off the shelves – it sold far faster than the other stones.

I didn't put enough stock into pricing principles as I should have; I also did no research into what other people were pricing similar designs and types of products at, and I devalued my products by pricing them too low to be believably a good quality. Hopefully, this helps you re-evaluate how you approach pricing.

4. I Thought “Search Engine Optimization” Was for Tech Nerds

Granted, I still do… Ha! Just kidding. Sort of. Search Engine Optimization – or SEO – sounds more complicated than it is, and it's crucial if you want to be successful on the internet in general, let alone Etsy. Etsy is a search engine. I mean, it's also a marketplace, but it's mainly a search engine. It's just that the results of a person's search brings them a whole bunch of handmade and vintage products to purchase rather than crawling the entire web.

Instead of thinking about SEO, I created witty, clever product descriptions. Which was great for reading material! But it wasn't great for people who wanted to find my product. When was the last time you searched for “Turnkey Turquoise Thumb Candy” when all you wanted was an authentic turquoise thumb ring? Yeahhh….

5. I Saw My Competitors As a Threat

This is something I absolutely have to say because I suspect you fit into one of two camps:

  1. You haven't even started your Etsy shop because you're intimidated by all the competition
  2. You ignore the existence of your competitors and just pretend they aren't there.

In reality, competitors can be a huge asset to your business. First of all, the fact that they exist proves there's a market for your idea. Secondly, you can use them to validate your idea by finding out how many sales they've made over a specific time period and then multiplying that by their average pricing. Finally, your super-successful competitors are obviously doing something right. Your not-so-competitors who are bombing with their shops are obviously doing something wrong. There's a lot to be learned there. If I had done an analysis of what my biggest competition was doing vs what the failing shops were doing, I would have been able to skip that frustrating and time-consuming testing period and just incorporate what has worked for others into my business. Why re-create the wheel, right?

6. I Spent All My Time Creating My Products

If the previous few mistakes put me in the ground, this one was a nail in the coffin I was buried in. I spent hours creating beautiful handmade jewelry to list on my Etsy shop. I would put on some Gossip Girl episodes, sit down on my living room floor and burn some midnight oil with the fish wire and hook nose pliers until my fingers blistered and I fell asleep on a pile of fish hook earrings. Good times.

This was ridiculously stupid of me because I didn't even know if people wanted to buy these things I was working so hard to create. I created first, sold after. I didn't validate my product, and when I did list the things I created, I spent no time actually working on my shop. In reality, people come to your shop because you've worked on your shop, not because you've been working in it. I'm still not perfect in this regard but I did absolutely nothing before.

If you've ever done any of these things – or you simply want to start off on the right foot and be successful, you're not alone. If you avoid these mistakes that I made, you'll be far better off than I was back in 2008.

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