If I have to see another Etsy success guild post that says "take better photographs," I think I will barf. You and I both already know that photos are important! But some other things that are just as important, but not nearly as talked about? I share *MY* best tips for success on Etsy-- and what I've found to be seriously business changing over the past 2 years.
So without further ado...
1 | Pricing does NOT matter as much as you think it does
Ah, the dreaded pricing topic. Well guess what? I am here to tell you that it doesn’t matter as much as you think it does. I have talked with A LOT of different Etsy shops that have inquired if they need to drop their prices to the lower tier of their market, or aim to be the low ball shop.
Whatever you do, DON’T DO IT. Reasoning behind this?
1- It is 10x harder to raise prices over time then it is to lower them. Loyal customers don’t want to see their favorite products keep rising in price as time goes on. Yes, it will probably be necessary at some time to bump the prices up (especially if you’re having trouble keeping up with orders!), but keep them at a reasonable rate to begin with and you’re starting out on a good foot.
2- You don’t want to be the low ball shop in your market. You just don’t. Think of it this way-- when you go to the dollar store and pick up a few things, do you ever look at the brand you just purchased? No. Because you’re not interested in investing in the brand-- you’re just interested in the ridiculously low price.
Now apply that advice to your Etsy shop-- if people are buying from you because you are the lowest price out there, they are not investing in YOU. They are just there to get a cheap product, and if another shop opens up with even lower prices, you better bet that they’ll jump over to the new one. Low prices does NOT equal more customers. Keep your prices right in the middle (or higher) of your market to build up that trust + brand loyalty that is key to creating a successful Etsy shop.
Sounds good in theory, right? But what about real life? Well, my most popular item is my baby headbands, and they retail at $28 for a set of 3. Take a look at the listings surrounding mine in search-- there is not ONE headband set that even comes close to that in price (a lot of this is just the marketing getting saturated with more and more people trying to make sales). Yet, I average hundreds of dollars a day with that listing. People don’t care so much about the price-- they want the item from YOU.
2 | Accept that your customers are your best idea generators
When I first started out my shop, I was convinced that I was going to be my own boss and do everything exactly the way I wanted it to be done. This was awesome for getting motivated + getting product out there (since I didn’t have to do any market research because I assumed I knew best anyways, ha ha!), but in hindsight, it definitely wasn’t the smartest way to go about things.
Case study: Some of my first listings were these sets of 3 baby headbands. I was convinced that if you liked one of the styles, you’d love the rest. They were packaged together for a good reason-- their colors all complemented one another.
And then I got an inquiry asking if someone could mix + match styles within the sets of three. I really didn’t want to go there (for obvious reasons-- inventory was (still is) a nightmare with a mix + match listing), but I decided to give it a go. A week later, I’d created a specific mix + match listing for anyone else that might inquire, and I sold 3 or 4 that day. To this day, it is my #1 best seller-- and to think, I wouldn’t have even thought of creating it if a customer hadn’t asked!
So keep this in mind-- if someone is asking for it today, there are probably at least 3-4 other people wanting the same exact thing.
3 | Keep your items fresh; out with the old, in with the new
Right before I hit my 6 month mark with my Etsy shop I was hovering at around 60 listings and felt that I had a pretty good variety of styles for my headbands. The sales were coming in pretty consistently (averaging 8-10/day), and I thought I had it made-- it was taking care of itself and all I had to do was fulfill the orders.
Flash forward to my year mark, and sales were still consistent, but they definitely hadn’t grown in any way shape or form. So I decided to get rid of some of the headbands that weren’t selling as well and add in some fresh, new styles. Sales immediately spiked up and the business started growing again. Bam.
Items go out of style-- something you could sell 2-3 years ago won't necessarily sell now, regardless of the quality of product. People's tastes change and you have to adapt to that if you want to be successful in the long run. If you haven't changed anything up in over 6 months, I STRONGLY encourage you to take an unbiased look at your shop and make a list of 2-3 things to change.
**Bonus tip - Check out the “popular" section on Pinterest and see what items + styles are currently all the rage. Jump on that bandwagon if it makes sense for your brand! Trending items is an AWESOME way to get extra traffic because there are more people than average searching for those terms.**
4 | Purchase your own domain separate from Etsy
This one took me a looooooooong time to get on board with. I have some basic HTML/CSS design experience (not by choice, ha ha!), but never felt that I was good enough to try to create my own website. I was also super anti paying someone because I was more concerned with putting food on our table then with buying a fancy website design.
Since having a website, however, I am now able to create content for my Etsy shop (ie, a product round-up featuring other brands, motherhood personal essays, etc.) that will link directly there, but will provide a background + resource for my shop. It also gives people a chance to Pin useful images from your site (round-up graphics, more product models, etc.)-- and not just product pictures. Plus, the more links you have to your Etsy shop, the better. Etsy uses them to evaluate relevance in their search algorithm.
Now I am not telling you to fork over $$$ for a snappy new website, but I AM telling you to get one. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it does need to be professional. And you need to post content to it regularly (1x a week is fine-- don’t burn yourself out!!).
5 | Respond to Etsy convos as soon as possible
Now I know that this one is not always possible-- but it is preferable and I have the revenue stats to back me up on this if you don't believe me ;) If you are contacted by a potential customer with a question about your product, they’re looking for an answer, and they’re looking for one fast. You want to respond to them as quickly as possible to let them know that a) you’re reliable, and b) that you want that sale. If you can respond quickly, the product their inquiring about is likely still on their mind, and they’re much, much more likely to purchase it while they’re still in the zone! I have seen this time and time again-- if I can catch them within the hour, I usually make the sale 5-10 minutes following. It is seriously magic!
Another thing I’ve noticed? If they are asking a general question (ie- “What bulk discounts can you offer me?”) chances are that they are also questioning shops with similar product as well. If you can be one of the first responses (try to be THE first), there is a much, much higher chance that they’ll go with you because no one wants to wait and wait on a product they’re interested in purchasing.
6 | ALWAYS follow up each sale with a “thank you” conversation
Once an initial order comes in, I do my best to send out a “thank you” Etsy conversation that details the order. It thanks them, gives them a time-frame for when they can expect it to be shipped + how long shipping usually takes (note- do NOT rely on them to read the shipping guidelines. They won’t. Always, always, always have them posted in more than one place and, if you can, send a personal Etsy convo with those details. They are seriously one of my best kept secrets for keeping customers happy)
With my “thank you” conversation, I also usually include a CTA (call to action) that asks the customer to tag me on their social media so that I can see them with the product. This is a win-win for everyone involved because it lets the customer know that you care about their purchase, and it also is free advertising for you-- they just showed off your item to their social media groups at no extra cost! You would be surprised at just how willing people are to take pictures with your items if you ask them to!
**Bonus tip - do this in batch editing. You don’t have to send the “thank you” note the minute the order comes in (although it’s a nice touch if you do!). If you are getting multiple orders throughout the day, add this to your end-of-the-day checklist. Create a simple script that you can copy + paste and then go through your sold orders and message each customer from that day. It will save so much time!
7 | Take the loss from USPS
This is a super hard lesson to swallow, but I PROMISE it will be worth it in the long run. When you start fulfilling larger quantities of orders, there are guaranteed to be a few shipping mishaps along the way. No way to avoid it. It’s just the human error factor of the postal system and it sucks.
Count on this and I promise it will be all the more easier to accept when it happens.
So your package is lost and USPS has no idea where to find it? Or maybe it was marked “delivered” but the customer claims they never got it.
My advice? Suck. It. Up. Just give them the refund or send out another package (if your items are too expensive OOAK to do this, then make sure to purchase shipping insurance for your package. Remember that shipping insurance isn’t for the buyer-- it’s to protect the seller (you!)). You will save yourself sooooooooo many headaches + angry customers if you just accept that the error happened (even though it probably wasn’t your fault!) and do whatever you can to make it up to the customers.
I’ve had a few pretty irate customers message me regarding shipping errors, and I’ve found that saying something like the following will almost always turn the ornery customer into a 5-star fan:
I am frustrated for you! I am so sorry that your package still hasn’t shown up. I will definitely look into it and keep you posted.
In the meantime, let me send out a replacement package (or refund, depending on the situation) for you to help make things right. We’ll get that in the mail asap and you should receive it in x amount of days.
Thank you so much for your patience with the postal system!
I’ve never, ever had an angry response written back to me when I send a message similar to the one above. Remember that even though the customer isn’t always right, it isn’t their fault if something went wrong with the package. Their good word of mouth about your amazing service could bring you tons of additional sales down the line.
8 | Have canned responses to your FAQ’s
Etsy is different from a personal shop website in the sense that our customers don’t seem to read the fine print-- the shop announcements, policies, or turnaround times. I get AT LEAST 5 questions/day asking these basic questions. Over and over and over again. I am super happy to respond to any and all questions, but it can get sooooo time consuming when I have other things I need to work on.
Enter canned responses. I do this by creating a document on my computer that I keep open at all times and then listing the most commonly asked questions + my standard response to them (and it's even easier now-- thanks to Etsy snippets!). Now it’s just a simple copy + paste to get them the answer they need, and I can be on my way! Happy customer = happy biz owner
9 | Batch EVERYTHING you possibly can
If you are doing 20 small time consuming tasks every day, I guarantee you that you will get burned out. It’s exhausting to remember that many to-do tasks, let alone get them done!
One of my secrets is that I batch everything that I possibly can. If I need some new photos, I make sure that I am taking all of the photos I could possibly need for the next month. If I am sewing headbands, I sew much, much more than I need to for the orders open that day. Social media? I have an editorial calendar set up for that ready to go.
Batching things has saved me SO. MUCH. TIME. I asked on the Etsy forums one morning about what questions people had about running a successful Etsy shop, and I had so many people take a look at my shop and accuse me of manufacturing my products overseas because no way someone could do all that work. Well guess what? Someone can---if they work SMARTER, and not HARDER. #clichebuttrue
10 | Angry Birds theory
I know that Angry Birds is looooooong gone (or is it? How was the movie? I haven’t seen it!) but when it was super popular and everyone was playing it, I found that when I would get stuck on a level and try over and over and over again the same exact way, it would NEVER work.
However, if I took the level by a completely different + fresh approach, I was usually pleasantly surprised, all of the pigs got hit, and I was no longer stuck on the level.
Likewise, with your Etsy shop, if something isn’t working or you are getting sick of making a particular product, then stop making it! You are your own boss and you don’t have to make + sell anything that doesn’t bring you joy or fulfillment (obviously, based on your financial circumstances as well-- although you can always try and “wean” yourself off of one product and onto another without sacrificing $$$).
So that’s my challenge to you today--try something new-- introduce a product you normally wouldn’t if it’s something that is totally on brand with your shop and you love making it. Are your marketing efforts falling flat? Mix it up! Offer a freebie or a sale you’ve never done. You’ll never know which strategies work and which ones don’t unless you try them!
Any advice that you would add to this list? What has been your best lesson learned during your time selling on Etsy?