Tips for selling on Etsy

10 tips for selling on Etsy as a new seller

I started selling on Etsy end of March 2019, so my Etsy printable planners shop recently turned one year old. Until just recently, I didn’t see much results. I did a lot of things wrong in that first year on Etsy. My shop could have started thriving two to three months after I opened it. I learned a lot from my mistakes, and I turned them into actionable tips for you here. So let’s start! Here are my top 11 tips for selling on Etsy.

1. You need more than a few items in your Etsy shop 

Against better knowledge, I started my shop with only 5 items. Etsy recommends 10. Some established sellers recommend at least 40.

I don’t say you can’t be successful with only a few items, but then they have to be really special, niched down and there’s not a lot of competition around. Of course, my products didn’t fall in that category. Not at all. I uploaded two wall art printables and three planners. Printable wall art and planners are crazy competitive on Etsy.

Starting my shop with only a few items is probably the main reason why I did not sell a single item until 3 months after I opened the shop.

The likeliness of your shop being found when you have only a few items is small. There are millions of products on Etsy. My average competition for planners is thousands of other listings. As an example, one of my bestsellers competes against over 7’000 listings for the same keyword.

It can work, yes. I’ve seen shops with only a few items getting sales. But if you’re not getting any organic traffic from Etsy and you have only a few items, you should try adding more products before doing anything else.
But before you add products, have a look at the next tip.

2. Do your research before you create products

The first products in my shop I created and listed without any previous validation of the idea. I did not check if people are buying similar products on Etsy. I did not check if somebody is searching for the keywords. I did not look at competitors’ products. Nobody asked me to create that product.

It’s funny, because I’ve already learned to do research for selling 3D models. I have no clue why I thought I didn’t need to do research for selling on Etsy.

So initially, I had an idea and I went and listed the product. You will have a hard time getting sales if you do that. Don’t waste your time. Always do some research before you create the product! Before you spend time creating a product, you want to be sure that

  • People are searching for your item on Etsy
  • Competitors are able to sell that product, similar products, or products in that specific niche
  • You can keep up with the quality of competitors’ items and have a unique touch on yours. 
  • There is not so much competition that your item has a very low chance to be found. My maximum acceptable competition, for now, is in the 4-digits range. Preferably, there are no more than 5000 listings ranking for my main keyword.

You might get the odd hit when you just upload what you think is great, but usually, it’s a miss and the product will not sell, ever. This is probably the most important tip for selling on Etsy – Always do your research before creating a product!

3. Add products to your Etsy shop regularly

After the initial upload of the first 5 products, I didn’t see results for a long while. I abandoned my Etsy shop in favor of some other shiny object. Once in a while, I would add a product, but seven months after I opened my shop, I still had less than 10 products.

Things changed once I got it in my head that I would sell printable calendars on Etsy towards the end of 2019. It was a bit late in the year to add calendars, so I added a few products in my shop over a short period of time. Suddenly, traffic started to increase, as you can see in my statistics – from November 2019 on, traffic goes up. And with traffic, also orders started trickling in. I didn’t sell a whole lot of calendars. I was too late for that party I guess. But my other stuff started to sell.

Etsy Stats 2019
My Etsy shop’s traffic from when it opened end of March until end of 2019

Consistency is key. Marketplace algorithms usually love activity. They love new products. Customers like to see a full shop too. You wouldn’t want to walk into a shop and only see 5 items, would you? It makes you feel like the shop owner is not taking it seriously. So add products, in best case weekly.

4. Your listings need to be mouth-watering

The most important factor in this are of course your pictures. They need to be high quality. Your images need to make clear what you sell at a glance. They need to be eye-catching. Remember, people are just scrolling through and only click when they see something that looks interesting for them. If you have text on your pictures, it needs to be very readable – high contrast, clear fonts. If you want to add script fonts, use them for something less relevant. Make sure that your thumbnail picture is easily understandable at the small size it shows up in the Etsy search.

Next, write good copy. Before I started selling products online, I had no idea what copywriting is. It’s important. Good copy can make the person instantly want to buy your product. I usually include some copy on the pictures in a short sentence as well as in the product description.

5. Don’t listen too much to Etsy on how to write your product titles

Etsy tells you to write your titles for humans. Don’t stuff keywords in your titles, they say. Yeah, I get that, it’s not nice to read. But I believe your item will sell mostly with your images. People look at pictures. Most shoppers hate to read texts. And algorithms look at titles.

So after having reasonable titles with only one keyword, I started doing what all the successful sellers are doing – Writing titles with multiple keywords in them, separated with commas. It’s still readable enough for humans and it seems to please the algorithm as well. There might be room to further make a balance between readability and a maximum of keywords. My listings also don’t rank well on Google. Or maybe that just takes more time? I don’t know yet.

But at least for selling on Etsy, my titles work a lot better now.

So look at bestselling items’ titles and see what works for them. Include multiple keywords in your titles and use very specific keywords instead of broad keywords.

6. Be patient.

I did not have enough patience.

It takes time to get your first sales. Unless your product is mostly without competition and highly searched for, it will take time to rank and for people to see your listing. I have products now that sell multiple times a day. None of them sold in the first month they were listed on Etsy. It took at least a month before they sold the first time, but after that, they soon started to sell regularly.

I sold five products in the first half year and made less than twenty US dollars. I’ve put a lot of time into setting up my Etsy shop and doing Pinterest marketing. I thought selling on Etsy is not worth it.

I came back later though, and this time, I saw results. So don’t give up too early!

7. Don’t promote your products on social media too early

With my first 5 items in my shop, I happily went and learned how to do Pinterest marketing. It took me plenty of time to create pins for my products and curate boards that could be interesting for my potential customers. I wasted weeks promoting something I didn’t know if people even wanted it. Out of my five products, only one made more than one sale. Three of them never sold.

Etsy is your best traffic source. Etsy has a crazy amount of people searching for items with buyer’s intention. Social media users are not foremost buyers. They want to be entertained. They want to be inspired. They want to collect ideas. Sometimes, if they find something they love, they buy. But they don’t go on social media with the intent to purchase something.

Etsy users go on Etsy with the intent to buy. It’s a shop. So save your time and wait to see what sells before you go and promote it on social media. Stuff that sells will likely also do better on social media. Successful products will help you grow social media more quickly, and most importantly, with a lot less frustration.

Don’t waste time promoting products that have never sold with organic Etsy traffic. And by all means, don’t pay for ads before you are sure that your product is very good.

8. Don’t offer too many variations

Selling printable planners on Etsy quickly raised the question of which sizes to offer. Letter? A4? Half-Letter? Happy planner size?

Then colors. Some people might want their planner page in blue. And purple, purple could be popular too! I like purple, so other people surely do too! Someone might prefers the title in a different color. Or a different font. So let’s offer all of that in one listing which takes a full week to create.

NO. You don’t need to offer that many variations. If you want to learn what sells and at the same time increase the number of products in your shop, I’d suggest creating multiple listings for variations. This way, you’ll find out what sells best. Once you know that, you can save yourself the time for creating variations people are not interested in.
I did that experiment with one listing: I created 5 color variations: grey, pink, light blue, purple, and light green. Only one of the listings made sales, so I had my answer. The winner was pink, in case you’re wondering.

In the beginning, I offered printable planners in US Letter size, A4, Half-Letter, and A5. All in one listing. I added a PDF for each size to the listing. Etsy orders for digital items show which items have been downloaded, so I can make statistics of which PDFs are downloaded the most. I found out that only very few people will ever download Half-Letter or A5. As a result, I don’t offer A5 or Half-Letter anymore. It takes a lot of additional time to create those, and with nobody downloading them, it’s a waste of my time.

When I first list an item, I only offer the variation I know to be the most popular. Once I see that it sells, I can still add variations. And people will ask if they really want something. I’ve had people message me if they could get a different size or a small change to the design. All of them immediately purchased once I offered what they asked for. Which brings us to the next tip.

9. Listen to what your customers ask for. It’s gold!

The more traffic you get in your Etsy shop, the more people will send you direct messages. Most of the time, they just ask where their order is. Yes, also when it’s a digital product. People can’t find the link or claim that they can’t find the purchase in their Etsy account.

But sometimes, people message you to ask for specific products or changes to products you have. LISTEN to them. Everything I created or changed based on messages I got is doing well.

10. Limit the time you let yourself look at statistics

Well, this is more of a warning than an actual tip. But I’m guilty of wasting time like this, and I’m sure other new sellers have done this as well.

Staring at stats ain’t gonna sell a thing. Staring at social media stats even less so. 

Actually, in the beginning, don’t even look at your statistics dashboard. In my experience and from what I have heard from other sellers, listings can take up to a month to “get noticed”. So don’t beat yourself up because your newly listed item still doesn’t get clicks a week after you listed it. 

In the first month selling on Etsy, list items, don’t look at statistics. It’s simple. 

Later, when you get more orders, it happens often that the amount of daily orders you get varies a lot. It’s crickets for a few days, then you get a bunch of orders in the same hour. Looking at your shop statistics will not make you see any reason for that. Traffic varies, especially when it’s only coming from one source. 

When you look at your shop’s statistics, make sure you have a goal in mind. Finding out if you were able to boost your conversion rate for example. Or check if something you changed influenced traffic or the number of orders you get. 

So that’s it, that was the last tip! 

If you haven’t opened your shop yet, you can get 40 free listings on Etsy with my referral link:

Listing an item usually costs 20 cent on Etsy, so that’s $8 there to start your Etsy shop for free. I get 40 free listings as well if you use my link, just to be clear about that. 

I hope these tips for selling on Etsy are helpful for you. If you have questions, ask them in the comments!