Jessica Van Den has been selling jewelry on Etsy since 2008. Today she brings us the top 5 mistakes she sees new Etsy shop owners make (and how to fix them). All images are from Jess’s shop. Here’s Jess:

Do you want to make more sales in your Etsy shop? I’m guessing your response is going to be ‘heck yes I do!’.

It can be frustrating, especially in the beginning, to get sales to roll in on Etsy. I know this from personal experience. I started my own Etsy shop as a hobby back in 2008. Fast-forward almost 10 years, and that little hobby has become my full-time gig so I’m here to tell you that it’s entirely possible. Don’t give up!

I’ll confess, though, that in the beginning, I had no idea what I was doing and I naively thought that all I needed to do was pop my items in my store and they would sell, no worries. I had little idea of the immense number of factors that go into creating and maintaining an Etsy shop (and handmade business in general) that actually brought people in and convinced them to buy the things I made.

In the last 10 years, I’ve not only consistently worked on my own Etsy shop, I’ve also helped thousands of other makers to improve their shops via my podcast, courses, and community. Over and over again, I see people making the same mistakes so I wanted to share five of the most common mistakes Etsy shop mistakes beginners make. Maybe they’ll be helpful to you!

squares earrings

Subpar Photos

This is the #1 mistake most people make when beginning to sell handmade items online and it will kill your shop stone dead. With the huge amount of competition on Etsy your photographs need to be stellar. The good news is it’s not hard to take good photos. You just need practice and some photo editing tips!

Avoid ‘busy’ backgrounds. Remember that a product photo should make your product the star of the show. A little styling is okay, but don’t get carried away and obscure your product by making your styling too busy. It distracts the eye and could even lead people to be unsure as to what you are actually selling! 

Bright, diffuse, and preferably natural light is best. Make sure to use the right bulbs if you are using lamps – they need to be daylight bulbs, so you don’t get a yellow cast on your photos. Avoid harsh shadows at all costs (no flash) and, if you can, take your product outside and shoot it in soft natural light. I know this should go without saying, but I have seen many a blurry product photo on Etsy. Make sure your product (not the background) is in focus. And, if you are using macro photography, make sure the key feature of your item is in focus. Consider playing with your depth of field to alter how much of your item and background are in focus.

All photos should be edited. This ensures you have got the right brightness and contrast, and that your white balance is spot-on. When you’ve edited your photos on a big screen, always do a final check of how they look as thumbnails in your Etsy shop to ensure they are nice and bright and easy to understand in a smaller format.

wedding ring

Descriptions that Lack Detail

When someone lands on your product on Etsy, there are generally two things that will convince them to click the buy button: photos and the description. The description is your best shot at convincing the customer to buy your product so put some time an effort into your writing!

Don’t waste this space! Make sure you’ve told them everything they need to know about the particulars of the item including size, colors, measurements, option. Basically, describe it as if they can’t see it. Tell them the benefits they will gain by purchasing the item. Remember, people are buying a feeling, not just a physical item. Weave a story and tell them what difference this item will make to their lives or the lives of those they love.

Many sales have been lost because someone loves the photo of your item, but then they have questions about the product that are not answered in the description. Most of these people won’t bother to message you to ask. They’ll just click away and buy from someone who anticipates all their potential queries in their product description.

Men's Ring

Poor Titles & Keywords

Online selling is all about being searchable. Your products will need to be easy to find for prospective customers and the title you choose is the first step in this process. It’s tempting to give your product a sweet or cute name, but the title is your most valuable search real estate so don’t waste it on fluff when you could be using it to help get your product found.

When titling a product, you need to think about it from the customer’s perspective: what might they be typing into the Etsy search bar in the hopes of finding your product? What are its key features? Use this information to determine how you title your item. One way to do some keyword research is to look at the ‘suggested searches’ that come up when you enter a word into the Etsy search bard. Take any of those keywords or phrases and use them in your title. Etsy is telling you that these are the terms that people are using most often to search for what you make. Now, brainstorm any related words or synonyms you can!

Use these keywords in the 13 tags that Etsy gives you. You can put detailed information in your tags. For example, when I list a necklace, I could include the length as a tag, as some people will search for a necklace of a certain length. You might also like to use keyword research tools like Marmalead and Etsy Rank to help you pick effective keywords. Repeat any keywords that you used in your title in your tags to help your item show up in search.

Incomplete Shop Policies

For many of us when we start out selling online we don’t understand the importance of having good shop policies, especially if we’ve never worked in retail before (I hadn’t!). But detailed policies are important for your customers and they’re even more important for you. Having concrete policies that cover any eventuality you can think of makes dealing with customer issues a breeze. Instead of having to stress and second-guess yourself when you’re confronted with an issue, you can simply refer yourself and your customer to your policies to solve the issue. It means you treat everyone equally and feel confident that you’re being fair to your customer, while also sticking to your guns with what you are and are not happy to accommodate.

If you’re not sure what to include take look at successful sellers in your niche and read their policies to get an idea of the sort of issues you are likely to come up against. Use your research to craft policies that are specific to your niche and situation.

Not Enough Listings

When you’re just starting out, chances are that you only have a small number of products. And that’s okay! I will always recommend that you get them listed and available for purchase as soon as you can because if they’re not there, no one can buy them and it’s better to just start! That being said, when you come across a shop with less than a full page of listings, it tends to stands out and not in a good way. Most visitors will make the assumption that you’re a hobbyist or a beginner business owner if you have only a small number of items available for sale. This goes double if it’s obvious that you don’t have many sales or reviews.

This is, honestly, the hardest part because the more you have, the more comfortable people will feel buying from you. In order to improve the initial impression that a visitor has to your shop, and increase the likelihood of making sales, you should work hard to increase the number of items you have available in the shop. This doesn’t mean you should put any old thing for sale in there. Having a consistent brand is also a vital part of the puzzle, but take some time to work on creating enough inventory to fill out your shop so that it doesn’t appear empty.

If you’re making any of these mistakes in your Etsy shop, take heart. Set yourself the challenge to work on one element at a time and remember that building a successful handmade business is a process. Take it one step at a time!


Jess Van Den is a self-employed silversmith working under the Epheriell label. She’s been making jewelry since 2008, when she opened her Etsy shop to sell her jewelry as a hobby, and turned Epheriell into her full-time occupation in 2010 – bringing her husband Nick on board soon after. They specialize in eco sterling silver wedding rings and work out of their solar-powered home studio in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland, Australia. Jess – a former school teacher – is also the founder of the Create & Thrive Podcast, where she teaches fellow makers how to turn their handmade hobby into a thriving, profitable business. Check out her free workshop for makers: 10 Keys to Successfully Sell Handmade Products Online

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