my etsy tips

This kind of post is totally out of the ordinary for me, so let me start by saying that I am by no means an expert Etsy seller, nor have I quit my day job, been featured very often on the ever-coveted front page, or been able to break out into the design blog world in a big way. What I do have is a successful small (tiny?) business that allows me to do something that I really love (make things) and share them with other people. I have customers that have become friends and important contacts and I am still passionate about what I do two years later.

I’m pretty happy with where I’m at, though I’m not confident (ever) that things will stay this way, and I’d like to share a few of the things I’ve learned from my experience as an Etsy seller with you as the busiest time on Etsy approaches. If you’re also an Etsy seller please feel free to let me know if you agree or disagree or have some tips of your own to add!

Don’t give up, but do change.

This is the single most important thing that I’ve learned in my nearly two years of being an Etsy seller. The first six months were especially depressing. Like a lot of sellers, I was totally obsessed with checking out my shop and dismayed at the small number of sales I was seeing, despite the effort I was putting in to making the pieces I was listing. I began learning more, branching out, and making new things. And some of those new things caught on and some even became popular. Had I just stuck with the original materials and methods I was using, my shop would likely still be stagnant. Diversifying, improving, and changing brought me both customers and creative satisfaction. Build on what is working best for you and your customers and you won’t be disappointed in the results.

Kill them with kindness.

We all have customers that can’t be satisfied or that ask for unreasonable things. I try to remind myself that while it is hard to deal with tough customers, it is much harder to be someone who is often dissatisfied and ready to do battle. When a customer contacts you with a legitimate concern or otherwise, they are likely on the defensive. If you are kind, no matter what the situation or whether you’re saying yes or no to their request, they will understand that you are not against them. This is so important that I might someday do a whole post about online business customer service. Bad customer service is the worst! I am not talking about giving the customer whatever they want or that “customer is always right” nonsense. I am talking about giving the customer respect and not getting defensive or taking customer comments personally. It really works! I promise!

Use your time to move your business forward.

This means thinking about whether you’re spending a lot of time looking at your Stats or Google Analytics or engaging in other time sucking activities and choosing to use that time in a more productive way. Browsing Etsy listings can turn into treasury making time (a small way to promote your own shop and show appreciation for others), checking e-mail can turn into taking the time to e-mail a blogger or Etsy seller that you admire and tell them that you appreciate their work. Finally, stalking your shop stats is time better spent making things, organizing your supplies, filling orders, blogging, researching upcoming craft fairs, and so on. When you find yourself (as I think we all might) going into that black hole of internet paralysis force yourself to walk away and do something relaxing or productive.

Take time off.

This is a big one for me. Twice in the last year I have put my shop into Vacation Mode to take time off to finish my graduate thesis and to get married. Time off felt really good! It gave me a chance to truly focus on the important things happening in my life and also to get some perspective on my business and make some things that I might otherwise have not had time for had I been filling orders or answering convos.

Make things for the sake of making things.

Maybe this isn’t the most succinct way to put this one, but not everything I make ends up in my Etsy shop. Making gifts for friends, one super special item for myself, or something made with a new material or using a new technique does not always turn into a new business venture. In fact, it rarely does. I find that making things for the sake of making thing is hugely fulfilling to me and reminds me of why I started this all in the first place: I like making things. I don’t just make things to sell things and that is important. To put it another way: keep some things just for yourself and you’ll enjoy making them a lot more! Give something special to a friend and they’ll appreciate its uniqueness and the thought you put into making something just for them

As I said earlier, I’m by no means an Etsy expert, I was just interested in sharing some of the things that have made a difference for me as we approach this busy holiday season. Let me know if you agree or disagree or what your best tips are! How does this all sound from a buyer’s perspective? Thanks for reading!


  1. I agree with everything you have said! I try to look at what is selling, getting views etc and take the stagnant things off and add different new ones. I especially like to part of your blog that says to take time off and make something not to sell. I always do this after the holidays to just take a break from selling.

    Thanks for the words...good post.

  2. Well said! I really enjoyed reading this very helpful. Thank you!

  3. I like your term "internet paralysis". I've spent the last three days doing this and am glad it doesn't just happen to me!

  4. Oh yes, the black hole of Internet paralysis. I know it well, especially now that Pinterest is around.

    I like "make things just to make things." That's usually how I come up with my new designs. Great tips!

  5. I completely agree with everything you said, and it is actually quite comforting knowing that other sellers struggle with the same pitfalls. Specifically, the time wasting. I'm starting to learn the virtue of targeting my online time to productive activities that could turn into a sale or a new contact, rather than sitting, passively refreshing my stats.

  6. Thanks for posting these inspiration and observations. It will make us all better - as we enjoy the process not just the results.

  7. i definitely agree with your tips, especially about change. not only do you have to continue to grow as an artist, but once things in other shops start looking like the things in your shop, you have to be able to prove that you are ahead of the curve rather than behind it.

    also, one i think is important and not often realized is that macro mode is your friend! so many times i see pictures of things that i'm sure are great, but the picture is too blurry to know for sure.

    oh, and one more tip, be sure you let everyone know that your earrings are magic ;) hahaha, i won't forget that one!

  8. thanks for these tips! I appreciate them and will take them to heart since I just opened up my shop. No sales yet :( You're right, it's depresisng! but I know I need to add more items any ways and promote. Nothing will sell just sitting back and watching! I definitely have to remind myself that I need to make things for the sake of making them, not for a profit.
    Thank you Sarah!

  9. I completely agree that first and foremost you can't give up, but you should change and tweek your shop for the best. I worked so much on my shop for the past year, and I've barely now started seeing a steady increase in sales that I'm excited to build off of. So it's important to remember to keep moving forward. I also agree that you should just create to create. My biggest pitfall is taking that vacation, I'm just too obsessed! hehe. I know it's horrible, but I really do love it. It's important to not give up though and just have fun with it. I make a lot of treasuries, and they're great for promoting your work as well as the work of other creators that you admire, but I also just love making them because I'm very much a visual person. It's important to find fun ways to promote your work that you'll keep doing.


    Sandra from ZoiShop

  10. Great read, I especially enjoyed the customer service tips, it is so important for the customer to feel validated no matter what, and we just never know where our kindness will take us :)

  11. That was super thoughtful of you to share those tips Sarah! It's always an exciting and daunting idea for people to start an Etsy shop. Those are some helpful insights. You've made me want to start one.

  12. Colleen: My creativity is really fed by both playing and feeling focused. When I'm trying to do too much, everything suffers, and when I take a break I inevitably enjoy it!

    Chelsa: Thanks for reading!

    Brynn: It's definitely a real thing. Information overload, for sure.

    Paige: Pinterest is a bad one, but also a good one, of course! I totally design new things when I have free time, too. It really works.

    Evey: Of course we all go through similar things. I'm learning that valuing my own time is the most important thing I can do to manage my business.

    JVoyage: Thanks for taking the time to read and comment!

    Danielle: Good photographs are so important. I'm always trying to improve mine. I also think we should both make sure all of our earrings are magic!

    Katie: No problem, friend! Good luck with your new shop! As long as you love making things you'll be successful because you'll be doing something that you enjoy.

    Sandra: Exactly. I see no reason to give up, just lots of information and feedback that will help you get better at what you do, no matter what level you're at in your ability or business venture. And about vacation, trust me, if you go away for a few days you will start to enjoy the mental freedom so much you won't be sure about re-opening! But as soon as you do you'll be right back into it, of course!

    Suzie2q: Yes, we totally don't have to battle our customers. I think I will definitely do a post completely about customer service for online sellers.

    Jacqui: Thanks, friend! I kinda think these tips apply in life as they do on Etsy. Just make stuff and see what happens!

  13. Great post - all things I need to start doing. stop wasting time on line with stats and chit chat and create something for myself or gifts.

  14. such a great post, people don't know a lot of these things, and you definitely learn over time..i mean i wish someone told me! haha :)

  15. Thanks, that was wonderful information, and a great pep talk. It really is so easy to get off track and forget that the reason you're building your business is because you love making things.

  16. Great post, thanks for sharing your etsy wisdom!


  17. Such excellent and vital tips Sarah, actual genius. The whole STOP CHECKING YOUR STATS AND MAKE SOMETHING! bit especially, I check mine like 23904721394 times and day and its so unhealthy. I resolve to QUIT IT.

    I totally agree with the making things for the sake of it. I've got plans for christmas presents for my homies this year that are taking a totally different direction than anything i would ever sell in my store just for the freedom of making something and as a bit of a refreshing change. I'd never list them, I just want to try something different. Creatively I think its like hitting the refresh button!

    Excellent tips I'm passing these on to everyone. E V E R Y O N E XX

  18. Thank you for saying "Take time off" - I totally agree! Everyone needs this now and again.

    My mantra to myself is "If you list it they will come" because if I have items ready to be added to my shop then I must remember to list them! They do no good sitting in my house if no one can see them. :) Once they're in my shop then others can see them and hopefully buy them.

  19. Great post and great tips! :) Thanks for sharing!

  20. Angels: Thanks for reading! Go make some gifts!

    Maria: I know, right, sometimes the things we take for granted as experienced sellers are things we would've wished someone told us back in the beginning!

    Steph: Thanks! I'm glad this helped remind you of why you do this...writing it was a good reminder for me as well.

    Michele: Thanks for reading!

    Dianne: AGREED! Time to hit the creativity refresh button for sure!

    Ennadoolf: Time off is so important! It really is refreshing and revitalizing. Just try it once and you'll be hooked!

    Mysterious: Thanks!

  21. The first time I leave a comment - Etsy is a collection of firsts for me. Thank you for reaching out with help. I've had a shop for 7 months, but been making things for 30+ years never daring to try selling, always for gifts. Now it's nice to know that there really are some people who like my stuff. But "stalking shop stats" is a terrifying thing - they just sit there staring back at me. Time is MUCH better spent making stuff! Thanks so much!

  22. Sarah, awesome post! I have been battling internet paralysis for awhile now. Maybe even more-so lately, since I haven't had much time for online friends/online biz/making jewlry lately, and I think the time I HAVE had for it has often been sort of frittered away. I need a better plan to tackle this problem :) Like MAKE SOMETHING or take photos! What a thought. I think that's the biggest one for me right now. Make things for the sake of making things is great too, though. I made a few things just for me recently, which I hadn't done in a long time, and it felt good :) I have a similar note to add, but I was already going to blog about it, so you'll see it soon :)

  23. Hi Sarah! I miss you and your blog. I hope life is treating you well:) I took a mini break from things to get some much needed focus back. I think your tips are really on point and very helpful. One thing I struggle with most I believe is your first tip. I started the Etsy venture in 2007 (under different names) pretty much on and off. Some years were much better than others, but not significantly. I think I haven't found the perfect balance of what I like to make and what will sell. Sometimes I think maybe my style isn't consistent enough to make a statement either. I'm sure there are lots of things wrong actually lol. Though, I am trying different materials and techniques lately, so I'll see how that goes.

    Also, with your third point, I know I'm not the best with the business/blogging/advertising part of things either. I'm learning now how important it is to put the time into that aspect. And Lord knows I can really hang out in the black hole of internet paralysis for and unforgiving amount of time! haha

    I really appreciate these tips from you, because I loved your work from the beginning and the way you conduct your shop and blog truly stand out. There's professionalism and consistency in your work and business...and that is not easy! Thank you for sharing what you've learned:)

  24. Excellent advice and reminders!

    I really need to check my stats less. Total time sucker. Also, another thing I would add to make things just to make things is make something different from your usual craft. One thing I discovered ironically while running an Etsy business is that I don't make as much as I used to. I especially miss doing other crafty things I used to do.

    ps Glad Lola's surgery went well!

  25. It's nice to hear about your success and the pure enjoyment of creating. So many times we get caught up in "the numbers" and forget about relishing the process. Thanks for taking the time to share this with us other Etsy sellers. Diane

  26. These are really great tips- thanks for writing this post! As a newbie seller (I just started about a month ago), I'm trying to do everything I can to make my shop better and I certainly need to stop obsessively checking my stats! haha :)

    star-crossed smile

  27. some good ideas here, thanks for sharing.

  28. I finally did that blog post! Ha!
    Gave this post a shout-out at the end.


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