Anna White, a Louisiana school counselor, has a creative streak. Like many artists, she wanted to make a few bucks on the side by selling her handcrafted pieces on Etsy, so she jumped in. She made 150 pieces of jewelry, took pictures and waited for sales to come rolling in.
Except those “rolling sales” never happened. In five months she sold just three items, two of which she called “pity buys” from people she knew.
What went wrong? A lot, White says. From dimly-lit pictures to entering a saturated market, she made mistakes and experienced an “epic fail” before she eventually hit her Etsy stride. Here’s a look at four problems White had when she started her business and the solutions that finally brought in some revenue.
1. Using subpar photos
White had basic photography skills, and even some Photoshop skills, but she rushed the process and wound up putting subpar photos on the site.
“I reached a point where I was just pushing to get it done,” she says. “I look back now and cringe at some of the terrible photos I allowed to go up on the site.”
Even potential customers were telling her that certain pictures were too dark.
Solution: Take photography seriously. Invest time in every picture. Take close-up, bright pictures that showcase your product in a visually stimulating way. Keep your photography standards high.
2. Writing basic, impersonal item descriptions
Once the picture of your product captivates a customer, they can click on it to see an item description. White says she wrote basic descriptions like, “This is a red beaded earring on a silver fishhook base.” Her simple explanations “had no heart” and simply weren’t good enough for the Etsy audience, she says.
Solution: Create a detailed description that makes a personal connection. Let the customer in on the creative process. Etsy buyers are looking for a connection with artists, which is why personal descriptions are best.
3. Having very little SEO knowledge
To sell anything on Etsy, your product needs to show up in a customer’s search results. To do that, you have to use a series of tags and titles for each product. White admits she was in uncharted territory here.
“It is impossible to sell anything, even the most amazing, well-priced, beautiful product, if no one sees it,” White says.
Solution: Understanding search engine optimization is an undertaking, but it’s worth your time, White says. She read books to improve her Etsy search results and suggests the same for new Etsy sellers. However, White says a quick tip is to make sure that every tag is at least two words.
4. Making generic products to sell
White entered one of the most saturated markets on Etsy: jewelry. While she loved the jewelry she made, when she compared her talent to that of other sellers, she realized that she wasn’t outstanding.
“If someone searched for red dangle earrings or charm bracelets they had hundreds of very similar options to choose from, and I fell right into the middle of that mass of offerings,” she recalls.
Solution: Look for a niche. When White realized that her jewelry store wasn’t going to be successful, she added other artsy items to her store to see if anything generated interest. After months of minimal sales, she started getting orders for custom portraits. She made the decision to get out of the saturated jewelry category and stick with this newfound niche. Now White’s successful Esty shop, 2day I Choose, sells custom portraits and not one piece of jewelry.
For all the Etsy hopefuls out there, White suggests doing research before jumping into the world of online sales. Figure out what you want to sell, see what’s already available on Etsy, look into costs, and read up on optimizing an online shop before you make dozens of products that you can’t sell.
Above all else, Etsy is a business, and like every business, you won’t be successful without a business plan and a significant time investment.