How to sell on etsy

Selling on Etsy: Choosing a Strategy that Fits Your Needs | Disruptive Advertising

If you’re reading this, then chances are you’ve at least considered selling on Etsy or perhaps you’re already selling and are wondering what you can do to make your shop more effective.

I wish I could say there’s one right answer for everybody, but successful Etsy selling strategies are as diverse as its nearly 2 million sellers.

I’d love to sit down with every seller individually, but for now I’ll settle with sharing some principles which will help you determine what you want to get from selling on Etsy and guide you toward the right strategy to accomplish those goals.

Is Selling on Etsy Right For You?

While I’m on the subject of business goals, it’s important to note that some business strategies aren’t a good fit for Etsy in the first place.

Just because your product is creative, unique or vintage, that doesn’t mean that selling on Etsy is your best ecommerce option.

The main alternative to selling on Etsy is building and managing your own website from the ground up. There are pros and cons to both running an Etsy shop and creating a free-standing site, and each tends to be strong where the other is weak.

To see what I mean, take a look at this comparison table:

Etsy Independent Site
Store Setup Ultra simple and streamlined—Etsy walks you through every step! There are several (typically paid) services that can help you design a site, but to make it attractive and easy to navigate you’ll either need some technical know-how or need to pay someone to build and maintain the site for you.
Customization You get one choice—the standard Etsy layout—for your store and all your products. You can display your stuff however you want!
Getting Customers Instant access to everyone searching on Etsy, but it can be difficult to be found on Google or other search engines. The whole world can find your stuff, theoretically…if you can fight your way to the top of the search results.
Building a Brand You can choose your logo and your shop name. Aside from that, your business looks like any other Etsy shop, making it tough to stand out. You can build your own brand image however your want…if you have the time and the technical skills.
Marketing Limited options to promote your products on Etsy and possibly Google Shopping. Many advertising options are available. You’ll need to learn about them and decide which works best for your business.

In short, Etsy’s strength is that it’s simple and straightforward. Within minutes of creating an account you can have your items for sale, and if you have good product names and pictures people will start finding and clicking on your stuff instantaneously. The flip side is that you have to pay for the privilege of selling on Etsy, you can’t customize much of anything and you’re stuck running your business the Etsy way.

In contrast, building your own website allows you complete control over your brand, marketing, costs and customer experience, but at the cost of a lot more time and technical expertise.

Perhaps you want to start by selling on Etsy, get your feet wet while your hand is being held and then maybe strike out on your own if you’re successful. If that’s the case, then it’s a good idea to purchase the domain name for your future website at the same time as you create your Etsy store. It’s not that expensive, and holds a place on the web for you should you choose to do your own thing later.

Should You Sell on Etsy?

My Pete and Fran example is oversimplified to say the least. Not all sellers fall into one of two extremes, and there are way more than three types of product that you could be selling, each with its own time requirements and returns on investment.

Even so, the moral of the story is that you need to know what you’re hoping to get out of your Etsy store. You need specific financial goals and should also decide what type of time commitment you’re ready to make.

As Pete and Fran would tell you, these priority choices will change what and how you should sell:

If you’re selling on Etsy part-time with low commitment, then time is your most precious commodity. The less daily attention your products require from you, the more satisfying your seller experience is likely to be. A hands-off approach like this isn’t the best way to make the big bucks, but Etsy was only ever a side project for you anyway.

If you’re planning on selling on Etsy full-time, then making money is your primary objective. For a steady income, you’ll want to offer many different items with high sales volume. Keeping up with so many orders can be a challenge, but that’s why it’s your full-time job. This is your small business and you need to think like a business owner.

Etsy stores and Etsy sellers are as unique as their products. Take the time to decide what you want your store to do for you and then strategize the best way to achieve that. It might require some soul searching, some number crunching and maybe even an entirely new approach, but in the end you’ll be on the road to a more satisfying seller experience.

Lea – Etsy Shop: Words and Confetti

11,800+ sales since 2015

etsy shop content

Question: What is the best way to drive traffic to your store? Does Etsy naturally take care of it?

The best way to drive traffic to your Etsy shop is to master Etsy’s algorithm and to use accurate keywords!

Indeed, if Etsy provides you with tons of potential customers, they don’t automatically place your products in front of them. That’s your part of the job and I recommend using the fabulous Etsy Stats page to help you with it!

If your product is visible already, you still need to make sure people click on it rather than another one. To do that, you need to have not only the best product but also the best display photo they will see.

To drive traffic, I also use social media and especially Pinterest and Instagram. I pin my products after I’ve listed them in my shop and simply doing that has brought a lot of customers to my shop. To give you an example, I have an art print that was sold over 300 times in one month and every single customer saw it on Pinterest.

You have to take advantage of free advertisement.

Another great way to drive traffic is to collab with influencers whose audience may be interested in your shop. You can do that by sending them free products, asking them if you can write a guest blog post for them or even.

In my experience, driving traffic to your Etsy shop takes time so be patient!  

etsy shop promotion

Takeaways:

  • Understand and use Etsy SEO and tags.
  • Optimize your product listings and use the best possible photos you can.
  • Use Social Media- Instagram & Pinterest – to drive traffic to your Etsy shop.
  • Work with influencers to gain a new audience.

Shelley – Etsy Shop: C and T Custom Lures

34,600+ sales since 2013

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etsy shop seller

Question: What are the key ingredients to growing a successful e-commerce business?

The key ingredients to growing a successful e-commerce business are above all else hard work and the motivation to work long hours.

It’s important to have a product that people connect to and want to purchase for many occasions.

Buying online is an impulse buy a lot of times, so the product has to have instant appeal – plus a good refund policy

It’s equally as important to provide great customer service and quality work to gain trust and return customers.

etsy shop review

Takeaways:

  • Stay focused, motivated and don’t be scared to put in the long hours.
  • Try and make your product more than just a ‘one off’ purchase.
  • Make your product appeal to impulsive buyers.
  • Follow through with quality customer service.

Natalya – Etsy Shop: Natalya1905

12,100+ sales since 2009

Question: What marketing method has worked best for you?

etsy shop blanket

Since I started Natalya1905 in 2009, things have changed a lot. Almost 100% changed. What worked then, doesn’t work anymore.

There are dozens of ways to market your Etsy shop nowaday – and there’s too many to use them all correctly. Like entering Netflix or Barnes & Noble, you want to see everything, but there’s no way you will.

This is why I believe in optimizing your efforts. It saves you time and your sanity. Choose the marketing method (or two) you like best.

Social media, email marketing, blogging (whatever you’re most comfortable with) and focus on it. Make it the main funnel to bring attention to your brand and drive sales. Pick your method(s) and stick to it. Let any other marketing method work around your main one.

For me, Instagram is the main marketing tool. I post all the news there (new designs, new pattern releases, sales, events, questions, giveaways, collaborations, etc.).

Some of my fellow Etsy sellers prefer Facebook, some love Pinterest, others run a blog or a YouTube channel.

In the end, find out what you like best, learn how to use it effectively and work hard to make your success happen.

etsy shop knit

Takeaways:

  • Use what you already know.
  • Pick one or two marketing channel and learn them inside out.
  • Focus all your marketing efforts into these channels to get the most out of them.

Maiko – Etsy Shop: Decoylab

7,800+ sales since 2007

etsy shop design

Question: What’s the most common issue when selling crafts on Etsy and how did you overcome it?

The first thing comes to my mind is pricing.

You have to know how to price your items. You don’t want to undersell yourself. Unlike mass producers, individual crafters pay more in material costs. I see many crafters eventually approached by retailers for wholesaling.

Unfortunately, because they didn’t factor wholesaling into their retail price, they have to decline the option of wholesaling as they’d have to sell to the wholesaler for less than what it costs to make the product.

Their business, therefore, can’t grow, because they’ve been trying to make price the most attractive part of their item.

If your plan is to expand to an Etsy alternative or beyond selling directly to customers, then you do have to alter your pricing.

Pricing is an art of its own. And it is not fixed or rigid thing. Customers have different perceptions, expectations when they see the products and how much they are. Paying attention to that is important.

etsy shop photo

Takeaways:

  • Don’t be afraid to make a profit.  
  • Don’t try and sell at a lower price to get more sales.
  • Be prepared to sell to a wholesaler for 30%-50% less than what you sell on Etsy.

Gabriel – Etsy Shop: PrettyGraphikDesign

351,000+ sales since 2012

etsy shop team

Question: What was the worst advice you’ve ever heard about promoting your online store?

As we really started our Etsy shop in the early days of digital products for handmade artists, we really had nowhere to look for advice. We basically had no idea how to start an Etsy shop.

We really focused on working on building inventory, developing marketing strategies and sharing our business through social media. Never, ever do tomorrow what you could do today.

Setting goals and action plans and actually doing them is really the best advice we can give.

We studied and took advice from mentors and masterclass over the years, but to this day, but what is most important is that you apply those principles to your business right now.

These simple steps are what we followed to create our dream business.

etsy shop design

Takeaways:

  • Look for the advice of those that are experienced, not just educated or knowledgeable.
  • Set measurable and realistic goals to keep yourself moving forward
  • Develop a plan for social media and marketing.
  • Don’t do it tomorrow if it can be done today.

Comparing Shopify and Etsy Popularity

When I compared Shopify vs Etsy, I first used Google Trends to determine which platform was more popular by web users. I assumed the platform getting searched more often is the more popular one.

However, I found that a simple comparison like this can’t be made here. When looking at this graph, Etsy (red) appears to be much more popular than Shopify (blue).

This happens because both consumers and sellers would be searching for Etsy. Like Amazon, Etsy is a marketplace to shop on as well as to sell on. On the other hand, only sellers would be searching for Shopify. Consumers are oblivious to the fact your webstore is even run by Shopify, they would just search by your business name.

shopify vs etsy

This is one of the main problems when comparing webstores and marketplaces. But, it highlights a key difference. If you’re selling on Etsy, you’ll get more exposure than you would on your own webstore. Etsy already has a built audience, unlike Shopify where you’ll have to build your own traffic. This is why most people to choose to sell on marketplaces like Amazon, especially when they’re first starting out.

Shopify vs Etsy: Selling on Your Webstore Vs Popular Marketplace

So, should you use a marketplace like Etsy or sell on your own webstore like Shopify? That’s the fundamental question we need to answer.

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While we could do an extensive list of feature by feature, it’s not necessary. There are only a few critical points to keep in mind when comparing the two:

  • Product Types
  • Pricing and Fees
  • Exposure
  • Control
  • Ease of Entry

These areas are where Shopify and Etsy are fundamentally different. These should give you a good idea of which platform could work better for you or why you might want to be selling on both.

Shopify vs Etsy Pricing Model: Which One Has Less Fees

Who has better pricing? Well, it depends on how much you’re selling. The difference in selling costs comes down to what fees each platform charges you.

Shopify will be more expensive upfront. This is because merchants pay a subscription for their Shopify store. However, Etsy can be more expensive in the long run because of their transaction fees.

Shopify Selling Fees

According to Shopify’s pricing page, these are the plans currently available:

  • Basic – $29/mo
  • Shopify – $79/mo
  • Advanced Shopify – $299/mo

To decide what plan works best for you, you need to decide how many items you want to sell and what functionality is important to you. The main things that will change based on your plan are:

  • Number of staff accounts available
  • Credit card rates
  • Shipping discounts
  • Extra functionality like gift cards, reports, abandoned cart recovery, report builders, and shipping rate calculators

$299/mo sounds like a lot to simply have a website up, especially if it’s a new website and you can’t predict how much revenue you’ll make. This is a fair objection to opting in for the Advanced plan. So, then let’s look at Etsy’s pricing model.

Etsy Selling Fees

With Etsy, there is no membership or subscription fee charged. Merchants instead pay three main fees:

  • Listing fee: $0.20 per item to be listed for 4 months
  • Transaction fee: 3.5% on every purchase
  • Payment Processing: 3% + $0.25 on every purchase

If you use Shopify Payments (their payment gateway), there are no transaction fees. However, if you use another payment gateway, you will be charged 2%, 1% or 0.5% for each plan respectively. You also still must pay credit card rates.

For example, let’s say you’re planning on using Shopify’s payment gateway and are on the Shopify plan. This means you’ll pay $79 a month, no transaction fees, and credit card rates.

If you sell $2,260 worth of merchandise on Etsy, at a 3.5% transaction fee, you would pay $79 (as well as $0.20 for each item listed and payment processing fees).

So, if you plan on selling more than $2,260 of merchandise a month, Etsy is actually more expensive than Shopify.

This at least true when using Shopify’s payment gateway and their middle-tier plan.

However, there are other hidden costs with Shopify. The total cost of ownership for a Shopify webstore can be higher. You could pay for web designers, SEO experts, and other services to boost your store’s functionality, design, and attract and build a larger audience. Etsy, on the other hand, already takes care of these things. It’s part of the ease of setting up and selling on a marketplace.

How much control do I have over my Etsy listings?

When it comes to your Etsy listings you’re limited to pictures and text. Here’s an example of an Etsy listing for a painted paper bag.

etsy product listing example

In addition to this top section, you are given an “Item Details” section to write whatever you would like about the item. While you are limited, this template is easy to work with. You’ll load your listings as needed and won’t have to worry about anything else.

With Shopify, you have full control over your listings. You can create your website and product pages to look however you want them to. Shopify is known for their user-friendly design interface. They also have countless templates so you can find and customize the template that you think fits your store’s personality the best.

When it comes to control over your listings, Shopify is the clear winner, if you have the time and knowledge to build the website you want.

The Most Popular Etsy Shops

One way to determine if your product has a shot is to check out the most popular Etsy shops in the  platform.

These shops doesn’t necessarily house items that make up Etsy best sellers, but checking out the top 20 gives you an idea of what the buying market at Etsy wants.

Here are the 20 Top Etsy shops and the items (category of products) that have earned these stores these coveted spots:

1) BohemianFindings (1,378,439 sales) – This Canada-based craft supply store, which has been live since 2010, is home to silver, bronze, gold and stainless charms, bracelets, stamping supplies and a whole lot more.

BohemianFindings

2) clbeads (503,920 sales) – At second place, this store also hails from Canada and has been selling beads, Swarovski, seedbeads, etc. since 2008.

3) nicoledebruin (470,333 sales) – UK-based charms store  that has been live since 2009.

4) jewelersparadise (457,164 sales) – This is the most popular US-based store, even if it only began selling pretty pendants and jewelry supplies in 2011.

5) yummytreasures (424,779 sales) – Known for its wide range of beads, this Etsy store ties jewelersparadise for the #1 spot on US. It’s been up since 2008 and is popular for its set stones until today.

6) yadanabeads (416,998 sales) – As its name suggest, this store (launched 2007) of beads and findings also has gemstones, glass, and a ton of 2-dollar-or-less items.

7) goldswan (407,826 sales) – Jewelry supplies are all the rage in Etsy, so there’s no wonder why a store like this would average $130/day sales even if it has been selling at the platform since 2009.

8) happysupplies (389,793 sales) – Hong Kong-based crafting supply store is similar to the top 5 Etsy, but preferred by customers in the Asian region for cheaper shipping fees.

9) Prettygrafikdesign (387,140 sales) – This Canada-based store is only 6 years old, but averages $180/day with its vectors and graphic design items. It’s the first non-craft supply store in the top 10 list, and a must-check-out.

10) shareliving (382,588 sales) – If you’re thinking about selling handmade jewelry trinkets and parts, check out this Etsy store for inspiration.

11) OnceMoreWithLove (369,479 sales) – Canada-based store makes awesome hand-drawn stickers for planners. It’s been killing its sales, especially since it only opened its doors in 2015.

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12) yakutum (365,859 sales) – This Etsy shop hails from Turkey, Istanbul and has been selling jewelry supplies on the platform since 2008.

13) ScribblePrintsCo (364,017 sales) – For those planning to sell party supplies and other paper goods, look for this US-based Etsy store to see why journaling is here to stay.

14) dimestoreemporium (361,674 sales) – Probably the oldest US-based jewelry supply Etsy store in the top 20, Dime Store Emporium has continued its business even on “vacation mode” since May 2018.

15) PlannerKate1 (352,721 sales) – One of the most popular Etsy sellers of planner items (stickers, printables and so on), PlannerKate has only launched its store in 2014.

There’s a list of the day’s highest-selling items on Etsy, along with the updated list of top Etsy sellers if you want to see more inspirations.

What’s the best selling category on Etsy?

If you’re not quite sold about the ideas above, you can continue to get inspiration from the first five Etsy Best Sellers leading the pack of every product category:

  • Accessories – Gorgeous headpieces for girls from ThinkPinkBows, handmade flower girl dresses by PoshPeanutKids, one-of-a-kind tutus and accessories from OnceUponATimeTutus, magnets/buttons with funny quotes made by BeanForest, and everything embroidered from TheTurnipSeed makes the top 5 accessories stores on Etsy.
  • Art & Collectibles – Embroidery Designs by Avi leads the Art category, followed by the awesome work of PatentPrints, quirky book-page artwork of collageOrama,  printable heaven at Studio20Designs, or high-quality photography backdrop from SwakyPrints.
  • Bags & Purses – From good old handmade leather goods from Portland Leather (also known as Curtis Matsko), JooJoobs, and in blue, to the bohemian-inspired bags of Janine King Designs.
  • Bath & Beauty – Etsy is also home to organic, homemade or customized beauty products like the soaps from TsunamiSuds by the Anderson Soap Company, PolishMeSilly’s fun and unique nail polish, or artisan organic skin care from Skin Food by AB.
  • Books, Movies & Music – For the journal and planner fan, you can get lost in the thousands of journaling items from YellowPaperHouse or JournalingJane  and adorable creations of craftedvan (bookmarks) and LittleMissDaisyrose (super-cute paperclips). Make sure to check out the fun guitar straps at California-based couchguitarstraps.
  • Clothing – Custom shirts are big on Etsy (see: screen-printed goodies from everfitte, zoeysattic, signaturetshirts, and Zen threads). Of course, specialty clothing stores, like silkandmore that sells silk robes and more, have quite a huge following.
  • Electronics & Accessories – Even electronics can be given a personal touch, such as cute laptop sleeve cases by Bertie’s Closet, mouse pad sets from Laa766, fancy wrist rests of ChicMonogram, or  cell phone cases (of Simply Monogram) and phone decals (from CuttinCrazy).
  • Home & Living – This category is all about crystals – just check out the 3 Best Etsy Sellers TheSageGoddess, ilovelotus, and BlissCrystals. There’s also a ton of unique candles like Frostbeard and personalized cutting boards by TaylorCraftsEngraved.
  • Jewelry – Personalized gold jewelry from GLDN LayeredAndLong, silver necklaces from Distinctly Ivy, custom coordinates of Mignon and Mignon, or rose-gold personalized jewelry   by CaitlynMinimalist are all the rage on Etsy’s jewelry category.
  • Pet Supplies – There’s a huge demand for pet-related products, as evident from stores like PuddleJumperPups (and its collection of dog collars), The Mad Stampers (awesome hand-stamped pet tags), Shop Mimi Green (and tons of personalized dog collar options), CollarDirect for cats and dogs, as well as veryvintage (with its organic cotton collars).
  • Shoes – Do you have products that would beat soft-sole baby’s footwear by ScooterBooties or Ebooba? How about custom shoe design service like what cutiepiegoodies (and its bedazzled    kid shoes), ShopPinkIvy (with its Swarovski-embedded Nike shoes), or FlipSideFlipFlops and its best-selling sand imprint flipflops?
  • Toys & Games – Have toys or games in mind for your main Etsy product? Check out these adorable modern dolls from Gingermelon, wooden educational toys from LittleSaplingToys and JandPWoodProducts, or the funky pro collection of hoops by HoopMamas.
  • Weddings – Weddings never run out of fashion, and Etsy best sellers know this. Get inspired by personalized bridal party gifts from ModParty or Bragging Bags. Be impressed with the groomsmen sets by Teals Prairie & Co. Or find ideas from wedding stationary or guestbook makers, Marry Grams and Alphabet Canvas, respectively.

Note that the Etsy best sellers featured here could change in the future. These should give you an idea if you’re launching an Etsy store anytime in 2018. In addition to the ones I’ve listed above, you can also check out Etsy’s best-selling items list.

Why It’s So Hard to Get Consistent Sales

One day you are selling well, a few months later you are not.

etsy not working

It all comes down to algorithm changes.

With Etsy, they changed their algorithm to give away less and less free traffic and instead make you pay for it.

By doing so, their revenues skyrocketed. But at the same time, thousands of artists who were selling decently well began selling little or nothing.

With gallery sites like Fine Art America, they build and optimize their own algorithm to give best sellers the most attention. When your sales, clicks, etc. cool off, your images will get demoted. Which means, you could be selling well now but not tomorrow.

So…Is Etsy worth it?

etsy

If you were one of the first to sell on Etsy, you probably enjoyed a year or two of opportunity that others didn’t. It didn’t last, but it was definitely good while it lasted. The same goes with Fine Art America or Saatchi Art.

If you are making sales on these platforms right now, that is fantastic and you absolutely should continue doing so and milk it for all its worth, while it lasts.

However, the bottom line is you have no control over any of these websites and how they decide to run their business. So if you spend time to build your business only on their platform, it is very risky.

One of the most critical risks involved is that Etsy will steal your traffic should you decide to sell your art elsewhere in the future.

Overall, it is a much safer long term to put your efforts into something that is built to last, like your own online art gallery.

When your run your own gallery, you minimize risk and maximize your control – two factors that we feel are essential to online success as a fine artist.

But don’t just take it from us, this very question was recently asked on our private Facebook community for our customers. Here’s how they responded:

etsy worth it

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