You’ve been making your stuff for a while now, and you’re pretty good at what you do.

People have been telling you for ages that you should start selling it on Etsy, right?

So you set up a shop, take some photos, and put up your items and start raking in the cash.

Or… not so much.

The truth is, there is a little bit of a trick to selling on Etsy. Oftentimes when people start selling on Etsy, they put up some of their items and hit the proverbial “go” button.

Months go by and little to no sales happen, and they start to wonder why nothing is selling.

So why am I not making any Etsy Sales?

I’ve seen this question in many of the discussion groups and communities time and time again and 98% of the time, the lack of sales is due to a few of the same reasons.

1. Your Items Aren’t Being Seen

Probably the most common problem is what’s called SEO, or a lack thereof.

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization and in plain English, it is basically how you craft the information within your listing in order to be seen on Etsy.

Please understand that probably 90% of Etsy customers use the search field to look for the items they want.

If you aren’t optimizing your listings to be found in search, you won’t make any sales.

I see people with listings that literally have 3 or 4 words in the title and random tags.

Doing that is basically the equivalent of setting up a lemonade stand in the middle of nowhere with no people around and wondering why you don’t aren’t making any money.

The Fix:

You currently have three different places to optimize when you are setting up your listings.
(Note this is probably going to be updated/changed later this year, since Etsy is currently making some big changes to their search algorithm)

Update: I have written an in-depth tutorial on my exact process for SEO on Etsy. Click here to read the tutorial

  1. Your listing title needs to be as full of buying keywords as possible – keywords that someone might type into the search box if they are looking for items like yours.
  2. Your tags need to match the keywords in your title as close as possible, using phrases if you can (within the 20 character limit).
  3. You need to fill out the attributes as best as you can to match the color, holiday and/or event.

**If this is your problem, please do yourself a favor and spend a couple hours researching proper SEO for Etsy. Start with my tutorial here. What I’ve written above is a VERY basic summary but there’s quite a bit more to it and with proper SEO, your sales can really take off, so you’ll want to get it right.

2. Your Photos Suck

Sorry, but that’s really just the honest truth.

The quality of photos that will work for snapshots will not work for Etsy.

This one is a common one, all too common. I see people ALL THE TIME wondering why they aren’t making sales and I go over to their shop and the photos are just killing it for them.

They are dark, don’t show a true representation of colors, and sometimes have a bunch of weird distracting things as “props” or even graphic embellishments.

No, no, no. Here’s what you need: Clear, crisp, well lit photos that show accurate colors, good detail, on a plain (or nondistracting) background.

Keep it simple. You do NOT want distracting backgrounds, props, or embellishments.

I will admit, taking photos is definitely a learned thing and will pretty much always be a work in progress.

What I’m trying to say is please don’t just take a photo of your crocheted hat on your unmade bed with cat hair on it and wonder why no one is buying.

The Fix:

  1. There’s quite a few guides out there on how to take great product photos without a fancy camera or equipment. Google is your BFF here.
  2. You can also trade product with models for photos.
  3. Make a duct tape mannequin or stain a board to use as a backdrop. Most importantly, research and read some product photography tutorials.
  4. Check out your competition and look to see how they style their photos.

With a little research and practice, it’s actually not that hard to make a big improvement and remember – it IS a work in progress.

Don’t worry about getting them perfect. Focus on making your photos BETTER, and remember that they will continue to get better with time.

How I do most of mine

I sell mostly small items and here’s how I generally do it:

  • On a bright overcast-ish day I set up a TV tray table next to my best-lit window (bright direct sunlight is awful for photos)
  • Put a stained wood board or piece of neutral scrapbook paper on the table
  • I have a u-shaped “light reflector” made from white foam board from the dollar store that I set up with the opening facing the window.
  • I lay my items flat on the paper, take my photos from above and at various angles, and then done.

Cost is about $5 in materials and takes minutes to set up and take down.

I resize them, brighten them up a bit with Photoshop or Gimp, add a non-distracting watermark on the bottom and then I’m all set.

3. Your Shop Is Empty

And no, that doesn’t mean customers – that means STUFF.

You need to fill up your shop with listings, using different keywords for each one, to bring in as much traffic as possible.

Unless you have a huge social media following or somehow your product is going to go viral, having 5 items in your shop is just not going to cut it.

It’s often easy to think that customers will automatically know or realize that you may be able to do a variety of different styles and variations on your product, but that’s not actually how people shop.

Real Life Example:

I don’t know if you do much garage sale shopping, but I like to antique hunt at sales and almost always, I do a quick drive-by before I stop.

If the sale looks small, sparse, or picked over, I don’t bother to stop. If it looks full, busy and has lots of stuff, I’ll stop in.

Why? Because I know I have a good chance of finding what I’m looking for.

It’s the same on Etsy. Sparse is bad. Full is good.

The Fix:

You just have to make as many listings as you can. Make different listings for all the styles, sizes and variations you have available, as much as possible.

You simply are not going to be found unless you actively work on filling up your shop (Keep it cohesive, I’ll talk about that in the next point).

I know when I shop on Etsy, I will often click on something that’s almost or similar to what I want, and then click over to the main shop to see what else they have.

This is because even if the item I clicked isn’t exactly what I’m looking for, chances are the shop might have something even closer and I want to see what else they have.

I personally have three Etsy shops and each time, I noticed a big difference between 5 items and 25 items, and then again around 75-100 items seems to be a good sweet spot when orders really start coming in.

4. Etsy is Not a Flea Market

I know, kind of ironic with my garage sale example above, but bear with me for a moment.

Etsy is not a garage sale, nor is it a flea market.

I know as creative people, we often have our hands in different baskets and we are generally multi-talented people with lots of interests.

The end result is we want to SELL ALL THE THINGS (am I right or what?).

So then we put up handmade leather handbags and soap…

…and pine needle baskets and framed oil paintings…

..and carved animals and knitted socks…

…some cute vintage stuff we have laying around and…


(You’re laughing, aren’t you? Trust me, we ALL do this. I have more ideas for products than I could sell in my lifetime.)

The problem is, oftentimes if an Etsy shop has a bunch of unrelated things in it, it looks messy and disorganized.

The end result is a buyer who has decreased trust in your shop (because… messy and disorganized is not professional) and backs out of the shop to buy from someone else.

The Fix:

Here’s where the business side of things go in – you have to Pick A Thing.

I’m not saying that you should only sell one product, but you do need to keep it cohesive.

It’s a part of branding and target markets, which I won’t go into just yet, but the basic idea is this:

You want your shop to have a THEME. Your items need to be related in some way, and not just because you made them.

Taking our above example, you could get rid of the carved animals, handbags, and oil paintings.

Then make a whole bunch of soap, change your knitted socks to knitted soap keeper sponges, make woven soap dishes out of pine needles (or maybe carve those instead of the animals!), and so forth.

Do you see where I’m going with that?

There’s other aspects to it as well, psychological parts of shopping and having a wide variety of items to choose from, but this is really what it boils down to:

Etsy shoppers are expecting a professional business. Therefore, if you want to sell to them, you need to present yourself as one.

This means having a cohesive look and feel to your shop, starting with the products you sell.

No, you don’t have to sell the same thing with 100 variations, but you DO need to make sure the items are related somehow and will appeal to the same kind of customer.

5. You Aren’t Giving All The Info

This is a little harder to diagnose and I know I’ve been hit with it before.

Once you get people clicking in to your listing and are getting some views, but not much in sales, this may be the problem.

If you’re getting people viewing your listing, or even hearting it, but rarely any sales, perhaps there is information that people need that isn’t in the listing.

In today’s day and age of Amazon Prime, instant downloads and smartphones, customers want to know the details and they need them now.

And if they don’t get them now, most of the time they aren’t going to bother sending you a message, they will just move on to the next shop whose listing DOES answer all the pertinent questions.

The Fix:

You need to have all the information in your listing that a buyer needs in order to make his/her buying decision.

This means:

  • Great photos of all the angles and things someone might look at if they were looking at your items in a store.
  • You make sure to put in the description what material the item is made of, size, etc.
  • Variations are clear and easy to understand so your customer knows exactly what they are selecting

Think of anything that your buyer might want to know. Look objectively at the information in your listing and ask yourself “Is there anything else they might possibly want to know or see about this item?”

The TL;DR – You Must Present Yourself as a Professional

So there you have it – the five main things I’ve seen that are the bane of new Etsy sellers.

And really, they all come down to one thing – professionalism.

Many times in my life I’ve heard the lament of many a small business person – why will someone more readily buy from a big business than a small business?

Why do people shun the new guys?

Here’s why – it’s because professionalism inspires trust.

You want these people to give you their money, right?

Then the image you project online needs to inspire them to trust you.

They need to know that you will sell them a quality product and deliver it in a timely manner. And if there are any issues, they know they can trust you to take care of it.

Those are the things they expect, so you need to deliver that trust. Because if you don’t, there are a hundred other Etsy sellers selling the same product who will.

Cases In Point

Here are a couple examples of businesses on Etsy that I feel have a perfect “Totally Professional Artisan Business But Not-Big-Box Generic” vibe to them.

And yes – these guys have all been in business a long time and have invested a lot into their branding and photography. You won’t get there overnight, but consider it something to strive for.

Your Turn!!

So now ask yourself honestly – is my business presenting itself in a way that tells customers that I am a professional and they can trust me? Are there any of the five points above that I can improve upon?

Tell me in the comments, we can chat!


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