Everybody wants to know which Etsy shops sell the most and what they’re selling. And as I’ve mentioned in several articles, having a best-selling Etsy shop or craft show booth has less to do with what’s being sold and more to do with how it’s being sold.
I also believe we learn a lot from mistakes.
So I wrote this article to help handmade businesses recognize if they’re making some of the most common mistakes I see Etsy shops with low sales making.
You have so much more to gain by avoiding these mistakes than you do from finding a best-selling Etsy shop and selling the same type of product as them.
Types of Etsy Shops More Likely to Fail
1. Etsy shops with products that only require entry-level skills
Think about entry-level jobs. They’re a great place to start a new career because they often don’t require a lot of experience or advanced skills.
However, when you apply for an entry-level job, there’s typically more competition for the position and lower pay.
The same idea applies when you sell a handmade product that only requires entry-level skills to create. There are more people making and selling those items.
Also, prices must be kept low and all the competition tends to drive those prices further down. Many businesses will drop their prices and sacrifice profits to make a sale.
As a crafter invests in training, refines their skills, and applies new techniques, they start to separate from the pack.
For example, there are fewer people selling:
>> skincare products (than bars of soap)
>> scarves that implement an advanced knitting pattern/stitch
>> jewelry made using silversmithing and stone setting techniques
Review the products you’re selling in your Etsy shop and consider how difficult they are to make.
If it’s not very difficult for someone to develop the skills to make products similar to yours, you may consider ways to learn more advanced skills to lower your competition, raise prices, and offer something unique.
You may even conduct a search on Etsy to determine how many products shoppers have to choose from.
Search general terms used for your products (e.g. search “bar of soap” not “watermelon mint exfoliating soap bar”…of course that term won’t have much competition).
For example, let’s say I sell face serums, I would search “face serum” on Etsy and see there are almost 5000 results. That’s not very much competition when you consider there are around 60 million products listed on Etsy.
On the other hand, if I sell bars of soap, I would search “bar soap” on Etsy and find over 115,000 results; much more competition and hundreds of pages your listings can get lost on.
Ideally, you want your listing to appear on the first page (but being in the first few is beneficial too). Not many shoppers will click through dozens of pages. Work on your Etsy SEO to increase your chances of showing up in the top results.
The number of listings you’re competing with can be an indication of how easy it is to learn the skills to make your product.
2. Etsy shops with too much or too little originality
I find that most shops having a hard time reaching their sales goals have one of two problems:
Their products are either:
>> too original
>> not original enough
The benefit of creating something incredibly unique is that no one else will be selling it. But the downside is: there’s usually only a small market for those items and customers will be very hard to find.
On the other hand, selling a trendy or popular product (e.g. personalized stamped jewelry) often means there’s lots of demand for your product, but also lots of competition.
Both are easy situations to correct.
Too Much Originality
If you’re not generating the number of sales you’d like and you often describe your products as “one-of-a-kind”, “completely unique”, or proclaim “there’s nothing out there like it”, chances are, your products may be a little too unique for consumers.
You don’t want to copy other people’s products, and you do want to showcase your creativity, however, it’s also important to appeal to your target market’s existing standards.
You may benefit from creating products that are a little more common and that fit inside the box consumers are comfortable shopping within.
Try looking at some of the leaders in your industry to find product features that consumers have an interest in.
For example, let’s say I sell bridal purses. I would Google “bridal purse” and look at the top results under the “shopping” tab. Or I might visit a popular bridal website and view their accessory section.
I may notice some consistency among product features:
- Type: Clutch
- Colors: white, off white, champagne, silver, gold, etc.
- Materials: lace, silk, beads, pearls, etc.
- Style: classic/minimalistic
If I’m selling knitted tote purses using colorful yarn, my purses don’t share any features with styles that are clearly in demand.
I would experiment with making clutches using elegant materials in neutral colors and styles that allow the bride and her dress to be the focal point.
But that doesn’t mean I have to create a cookie-cutter bridal purse. Within those key features, I could get creative. For example, I could try different shapes and sizes in a clutch style.
Too Little Originality
If you notice there are several other Etsy sellers offering products similar to yours, you may see a boost in sales by putting a creative spin on them.
To avoid going too far in the other direction and creating products that are too unique and don’t have a market, make changes based on a profitable target market.
For example, let’s say I’m selling personalized stamped jewelry (circle-shaped and bar-shaped pendants stamped with initials or names). There are over 150,000 listings for stamped jewelry that are very similar to what I’m selling.
By simply targeting a specific market, I could put a unique spin on the stamped jewelry trend.
- Target Market: Brides
- Offer bridal jewelry stamped with a bridal phrase or personalized name/message (e.g. “I do”, or “Mr. ____” / “Mrs. ____”, a wedding/engagement date, or longitude and latitude coordinates of the wedding/proposal/honeymoon location, etc.)
- Target Market: Foodies
- Add a food-themed pendant with the stamped pendant (e.g. a pizza-shaped pendant and a plate-shaped pendant stamped with an initial).
- Target Market: Dog owners
- Personalize jewelry with pet names and add pendants in the shape of a dog breed, or stamp the shape of a dog breed on a circular pendant (e.g. a bulldog, a poodle, a wiener dog, etc.).
For more examples of profitable target markets, check out How to Find a Goldmine of Customers.
You may also benefit from exploring your business’s USP, here’s an article that will help.
3. Etsy Shops with lack of cohesion
So many small business owners underestimate the importance of cohesion within a business.
When there’s consistency, consumers are more likely to trust the business and spend their money with them.
Imagine you’re in the market for a luxury car; you’re ready to splurge and really treat yourself.
>> Are you going to be drawn to the car lot with rows and rows of shiny, new, luxury vehicles and sophisticated signage? Or the one with a mix of old and new, shiny and rusted cars, and prices scribbled on windshields with neon markers?
>> If you want a cool new sports car, are you going to buy from a brand that’s known for being hip, sleek, and fast, or one that’s also known for selling minivans and utility trucks?
>> And are you going to spend your money at the dealership that consistently provides great service and treats you like gold, or the one that is inconsistent and you’re never sure what you’re going to get?
Cohesion is key to getting those sales.
Implementing repetition and elimination is an easy way to create cohesion.
For example, instead of offering jewelry in a wide range of styles, I may eliminate several styles and focus on punk rock jewelry, repeating punk rock elements across all areas of my business. I could create cohesion within a product collection by repeating just a few key elements. E.g. each piece within a collection might incorporate silver, onyx, and spikes.
Cohesion is important in every aspect of your business, for example:
- Target market – all your products should be for one target market. Selling craft supplies and finished crafts targets two completely different consumers. The person buying craft supplies isn’t going to buy finished crafts they can make themselves.
- Branding – shoppers should get the same feeling from your business whether they’re reading an email from you, looking at product photos, or shopping your craft show booth. For example, if my brand is calm and peaceful, every element of my business should evoke those feelings.
- Products – the types of products you offer should have some sort of running theme. When an Etsy seller lists everything from knitted scarves and jewelry to craft supplies and candles, they come across as a Jack of all trades; master of none. On the other hand, a shop that only sells knitted scarves, hats, mittens, and headbands has the theme of winter accessories.
There are so many details within each of the areas above, and many other areas to pay attention to.
To start your process of elimination and repetition, look at your business’s stats.
Which products sell the best and which have been sitting in your shop for months? Repeat popular product features, price points, photography styles, etc., and eliminate poor preforming products and elements.
The Success Planner will help you track and analyze important business numbers.
You may also find How to Find a Signature Style for your Handmade Business helpful.
4. Etsy Shops with products that don’t have a universal description
If there isn’t a universal description for the products an Etsy shop is selling, those products won’t be found.
For example, most people would describe a black leather choker with spikes as a “punk rock choker”.
When everybody uses the same term to describe something, it makes it easy to name products and for people to find them.
*What’s even more important is that you use the terms that are universal within your target market. For example, some people call a tight-fitting necklace a “choker” while others call it a “dog collar”. I would want to know which term is more common among my target market.
Someone looking for a punk rock choker is going to type “punk rock choker” into Google or Etsy, and if my necklace has “punk rock choker” in its title, it’s more likely to appear.
But let’s say my jewelry didn’t have a describable style; everyone uses different terms to describe it.
That makes it very hard for me to name my products using terms my target market is searching for.
If I would describe my necklace as an “eclectic bohemian statement necklace”, and I name it as such on Etsy, it’s highly unlikely anyone is searching that term. *I can actually tell you, according to a tool I use that tracks search volume for terms on Google, there is no data for that term, meaning it’s almost never typed into a Google.
If you think your products might fall under this category, try finding a label for your products; this article will help.
You’ll also benefit from researching popular search terms, which I explain how to do in step 2 of this article.
5. An Etsy shop that feels too homemade
When I was asked to sell at my first craft show (which is around the time I first heard about Etsy), I was hesitant to sign up because “craft show” conjured images of folding tables lining a sleepy shopping center with people selling knitted toilet paper covers and home décor items made from scrap fabric.
Handmade has come a long way and there are so many Etsy sellers creating items that look like they’re made by a big corporation. You would never know their businesses are a one-person operation; they operate it like there’s a team of 20.
Etsy shoppers expect everything they do from a big business:
- Hip new designs
- Impeccable craftsmanship
- Amazing photography
- Professional-looking brand
- Quick response time and good communication
- Speedy shipping
Although it may be a side business for you, it needs to operate just as smoothly as a full-time business to grow it to a full-time income.
Make sure you’re addressing every aspect of your business and that you aren’t spending the majority of your time creating; there are too many other areas of your business that require your attention. How to Sell Handmade Beyond Friends & Family will help you get all of your ducks in a row.
I hope taking a closer look at these 5 common mistakes will help you grow your Etsy shop sales!
Hey, I’m Erin 🙂 I write about small business and craft show techniques I’ve learned from being a small business owner for almost 2 decades, selling at dozens of craft shows, and earning a diploma in Visual Communication Design. I hope you find my advice helpful!