With millions of customers worldwide, Etsy is one of the best places to sell your products online. Using Etsy analytics to optimize your listings, selecting the right images for your products, and becoming SEO-savvy are some of the things successful sellers recommend to beat the competition.

With a global customer base of close to 90 million, Etsy is definitely the place to showcase and sell your products online.

That’s why, a couple of years back, I took the plunge and opened my own Etsy shop. After all, I had nothing to lose except for $1.00, and an ounce of my pride if nobody bought my stuff.

Luckily, that didn’t happen.

But with millions of sellers listing thousands of items each day, it can be hard to get found, not to mention make your listings stand out from the rest.

So, if your shop needs a little push, you’ve come to the right place.

I’ve talked to the owners of four seriously successful Etsy shops: The Urban Acres, Studio Sisters, The Swag Elephant, and Modern Printable Shop, to come up with a compilation of tips and tricks to help you thrive.

If you’re looking for the TL;DR, here’s a quick video featuring our experts:

1. Find the selling approach that works for you

Julie Berninger, owner of The Swag Elephant, says that a crucial part of having a successful shop is finding a business model that works for you.

The entrepreneur first started selling on Etsy in 2017. Back then, she sold temporary tattoos for bachelorette parties. Although she was getting sales, she noticed that her business model wasn’t working for her, or her schedule at the time.

“I would often forget to check the Etsy app, or I would run into some crunch where I was staying late at work and I didn’t have time to pack everything up, and go to the post office. So, when I got an order instead of being thrilled to make a profit of $15, I felt overwhelmed by everything I had committed myself to.”

Turns out that having an active income shop wasn’t for her. Once she got that clear, she traded her temporary tattoo business for printables — and never looked back.

Active vs. passive income shop: choosing the right selling approach

Active income shops are those that sell physical objects, like handmade goods, crafting supplies, and vintage clothes. 

These shops require you to put in long hours between restocking, packing the products, and going to the post office. They also have a more complex pricing structure, as you need to take into account how much you spend on supplies, and hours worked.

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Passive income shops are those that primarily sell digital files, such as knitting or sewing patterns, birthday cards, and different kinds of templates.

These shops are easier to run, as they have a “set it and forget it” type of structure, in which you design the files, upload them, and the clients take care of the rest.

The best part?

“You don’t have to be Picasso,” Berninger says, you just need to invest in bundles of fonts and shapes, or in a good design platform, like Canva to get things moving.

If you’re interested in learning more about printables, plus get some money-making ideas, Berninger has a free e-book you can download here.

2. Know where to concentrate your efforts using Etsy analytics

If you haven’t downloaded the Sell on Etsy app, do yourself a favor, and get it.

Let me tell you why it’s so important to have this app and keep tabs on it:

  • It tells you where most of your traffic is coming from. This is super useful as it will help you know which social media platforms (Instagram, Facebook, etc.) you need to concentrate on to promote your products.
  • You’ll be able to see which of your listings are getting the most clicks. This will give you an idea of which items are worth keeping, and which should be nixed from the shop. That way, you won’t waste your time and effort on things that won’t sell.
  • It can help you get found. When you click on each specific listing on the app, it tells you what keywords brought in the most traffic. You can use this to optimize your listings, so customers can find your products more easily.
  • It will make things smoother. The app sends you notifications when you sell an item and when customers send you messages. It also allows you to see the dates by which your orders need to be shipped, making it easier to prioritize tasks.

So, yeah, listen to me, and get the app.

3. Learn from your competitors — but don’t copy them

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Kevin Jones, co-owner of Modern Printable Shop, an Etsy store that specializes in digital planners, says that part of having a successful shop is studying your competitors.

“That’s not necessarily the top-dog on the block, but people that have similar products [to yours] that are being successful and that have more sales than you.”

By researching your competitors you’ll be able to…

  • Know the quality you should be aiming for when creating your products.
  • See what types of images you need to have to showcase your product, as well as the quality.
  • Have an idea of how to name and title your listings.
  • Learn which keywords or tags your listings need to have for them to get found.
  • Price your products fairly.
  • Check out what other products their buyers are into, so you can also add those to your shop, and expand.

Still, Jones notes that it’s very important not to copy any products, just to use this research to “help you set expectations for what people are looking for, and what they gravitate towards.”

4. Create an engaging listing that stands out

Remember I said that creating a listing that stands out is one of the hardest parts of selling on Etsy? That’s because it is.

Your listing is the first thing customers see, so you want them to be immediately drawn to it, to the point that they have to click on it, even if they don’t purchase anything.

Here’s how to create such a listing.

Select the right image to showcase your product

Sallie Dale, owner of The Urban Acres, a shop that sells punch needle and embroidery kits, says that it all starts with your pictures.

“The thing that’s gonna separate you are definitely your pictures.”

Etsy recommends you use pictures that are 2,000 pixels or larger. If you don’t have a good camera that can produce those results, you can always ask to borrow one from a friend or have a professional take them for you.

Hot tip: if you’re selling physical objects, try to showcase them in natural light, and avoid using filters.

Besides that, it should be very clear what you’re trying to sell on that image. 

Use the right tags

Dale went on to tell me:

“Etsy does a really great job of finding people who are looking for what you’re selling, So, it’s really important when you list your product that you have the proper keywords and tag words so that whoever is looking for what you’re selling can find it.”

When you’re creating an Etsy listing, you’re allowed to enter up to 13 tags to help people find your products. Although these have character limitations, you’re better off putting up short phrases than single words. 

For example, with my yarn shop, I made the mistake of just putting the tag words “yarn, speckles, and hand-dyed,” which wasn’t helping at all since people usually search for phrases, not just random words.

If you’re unsure of which tags you should be using, you can always use Google’s search bar and start typing the name of your product (candles, yarn, birthday cards, etc.) and see what autocomplete comes up with, you can also do the same on Etsy, and create tags based on those phrases.

Craft a description that tells people why they need your product

Besides tags, Etsy also has a box for you to elaborate more on your product.

Another mistake I made early on was leaving that blank, which made it harder not only to get found but to get sales because people were just coming to an empty page with technical specs and nothing more.

Taylor Smith, co-owner of Studio Sisters, a vinyl sticker shop, says that the first sentence of that description is the most important one, and should highlight why your product is special or why a certain group of people would want to buy it.

In my case, I updated my description to include not only the technical specs but to note that my yarns “are dyed with low-impact acid dyes and made with ethically-sourced materials,” and “that our bright colors can make any knitting or crochet project pop,” and I’ve seen a difference in both traffic and sales.

5. Drive more traffic to your shop using these tools

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Social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok can do wonders for small business owners if you know how to use them right. Dale, from The Urban Acres, says:

“Social media has been a powerful tool for me. I definitely see a dip in sales when I’m not utilizing it as much, but it can also be exhausting.”

When using social media to drive traffic to your website, make sure you’re not just openly advertising your products, as it can seem pushy.

Something that has worked for me is to show pictures and reels of my process, as well as share projects that I’ve completed with my products to keep people engaged.

But if you’re not a social media whiz — don’t fret. You can also amp up your SEO game to drive traffic to your listings.

SEO stands for “search engine optimization,” which is just fancy talk for using the right combination of keywords to get found more easily by both search engines and users.

Certain tools, like eRank and Keyword Tool Dominator, can help you with this task. Both services have free subscriptions, as well as paid ones.

I personally prefer eRank as it is more cost-effective (I have the $5.99/month subscription) and has pretty cool features. These include telling you which keywords are trending by region, and an optimization tool that tells you how you can improve your own listings. You can also get reports on the tags your competitors are using, which has been very helpful, to say the least.

If you want to learn more about how to use SEO to bring more traffic to your Etsy shop, Studio Sisters has this amazing 15-minute guide that you can download for free.

6. Have the numbers down: from how many products you should list to how much you should charge

Never start with just one or two listings

When people see a shop with a couple of listings, they tend to shy away from buying, as it may give them the impression that your shop is fairly new (even if it isn’t) and that because of that they may not have a good experience shopping from you.

So, what’s a good number of listings to have on your shop?

Both Dale and Smith agree that 15+ should be your lucky number. 

Charging for products 101

A lot of people tend to sell their items cheaper than they should because they’re afraid that if they charge more, people will walk away. But having the cheapest item on the block can do more harm than you think. Smith, from Studio Sisters says:

“That’s actually a really bad way to get sales. Your product might be of very high quality, but you’re going to set a low expectation for them, and that’s not what we want.”

So, how do you price your items without selling yourself short?

Smith says that the simplest way is to calculate how much you spent on supplies and multiply that by four.

If you have a passive income shop, then she recommends looking at your competitors’ prices and staying within that range, or a bit higher.

For more tips on how to price your items correctly, you can check out this free Masterclass from Studio Sisters.

Shipping costs

Etsy will automatically calculate the shipping costs for you, but you need to get the numbers right for it to not eat away your profits.

By getting the numbers right, I mean measuring and weighing your packaged items.

Besides that, Etsy will bump up listings that offer free shipping to customers, however, if you choose this option, make sure you have bundled the shipping costs into the total price of the item, to avoid losing money.

7. Run a sale — the smart way

Nothing attracts customers like a good sale, but if you’re not careful, these can also make you lose a ton of money.

Here are some tips for running a sale:

  • Give customers a reason for the sale. That way, it will seem organic and not pushy. 
  • Bundle stuff. Berninger, from The Swag Elephant, says that people love to purchase a bunch of items together. This is also the easiest way to run a sale, as you can knock a couple of dollars off and it will still look like a steal.
  • Don’t go overboard. If you have sales all the time, people will always wait for that discounted price, so Smith recommends running no more than four sale events per year, and to time it along with key dates, like Black Friday or Christmas.

8. Let your shop grow with you

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This piece of advice is specifically for those who have active income shops, particularly if you offer made-to-order items.

Sometimes we get overly excited and bite off more than we can chew, meaning that we list a ridiculous number of items with unrealistic processing times.

If your shop is a one-person show, be realistic as to how many items you can complete within a certain timeframe, without getting burned out or affecting the quality of the finished products.

Trust me, you don’t want a bunch of angry customer reviews complaining about how long it took them to get the order, or showing pictures of defective products, which could cause permanent damage to your business.

Summary

The competition on Etsy can be steep, but doing things like optimizing your listings, using the right keywords, producing good-quality images, and pricing your items right, can get you really far.

The most important thing is to focus on what works for you and stick to it — even if it takes time for things to take off.

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About the author

Heidi Rivera
Total Articles: 33
Heidi Rivera is a Puerto Rico-based personal finance reporter. Her areas of expertise include credit, student debt, and higher education. Heidi’s work has been featured on Money, Yahoo, MSN Money, and Money Talks News. When she isn’t writing, Heidi likes to watch horror movies, enjoy a slice (or four) of pizza while sipping on some wine, or chilling at home with her cats. You can reach her on Twitter @_HRivera or on LinkedIn.