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Etsy Small Business

I Opened A New Shop On Etsy. My Etsy Mistakes and Progress So Far

June 29, 2020
Open sign at a store's front door

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Etsy Mistakes were made. Let’s all learn from them.

So the purpose of this blog was to:

  1. Share my expertise in advertising and website development to handmade sellers
  2. Learn from others and help them
  3. Share my progress, Etsy mistakes, and the things I’m learning myself with my shops

I think so far I am doing fairly well at the first two items on that list. But now its time to make do on sharing what I’m doing in my own shop. Maybe I can learn from you guys and help others by showing what I’ve done wrong. Be forewarned, this is totally a long story format post and I won’t be linking to my shops.

In fact, I am purposefully leaving out identifying details about my shop. I don’t want the wrong traffic funneling in and possibly lowering my conversion rates. I also, selfishly, do not want to invite more competition in my niche.

Before the Launch (The Conception)

This is my second Etsy shop. I wanted to do a totally new launch since my first shop’s launch was a dud (more on that soon). I wanted to take the lessons I learned from that failure and hopefully do it better this time.  So I spent about two weeks creating spreadsheets and “reports” of research. I researched shops, products, niches, and what it would take to create certain products. I exhausted myself and almost ran into analysis paralysis.

In fact, I did mess around with making bath bombs for a specific niche. I got discouraged by sunk costs and the southern humidity hell-bent on keeping my bath bombs from hardening properly. I did achieve figuring out how to do it, but by this time, I started to focus on THIS shop instead. I may go back to the bath products. Who knows. But I do have my hands full for now.

I chose my niche and products I wanted to make for that niche. I picked products that had high engagement and lower competition scores on Marmalead. Then I researched to make sure they were a  proven product on Etsy. Remember, Marmalead scores are not enough to make decisions.

I then began to research trends. This was before the worldwide pandemic hit so trends were very clear in my research. I’d imagine right now it may less clear since everything is in a state of chaos. Researching trends wasn’t nearly as overwhelming as product research. I was able to make a chart of my collection easily and source the materials to make each collection item. I plan to share what I know about trend research soon.

I’ll admit, I took forever in sourcing the perfect materials at first. I was so afraid of picking the wrong thing despite what I knew with my research. I am much more confident and willing to risk mistakes months later than I was when I started this process.  However, don’t get me started on the anxiety headache I gave myself obsessing over packaging. Guess what, that’s not something to get a headache about. I made my purchases and while waiting for them to arrive, I worked on my shop’s branding and creating infrastructure. These deserve their own blog posts too. But for now, know that I kept my branding simple and made myself get this done in a day. I did not need more anxiety headaches.

I set up social media accounts and website hosting, installed WordPress, my SSL certificate, my favorite plugins (as seen on my resources page), and theme. I also got my email marketing all done. This is all it’s own process of both fun design and copywriting to tedious setups with domain validations and SSL redirects.

With everything set up, I tried to get as much writing as I could for the blog. I would NOT stress this as a priority to anyone starting out. I just had a lot of time to kill being furloughed from my job at this time.

Once material and products came in, I got started in production. I made 3 of each product. It’s a safe number to have of each item. I think 2 of each item is safe too. If you run out, you’ll have enough heads up to start restocking. And if nothing sells, you won’t cry over the money lost.

I moved on to product photography. I had such big dreams for what I wanted to do. In my head, I had a beautiful set with models that for some reason only care about their portfolio and not being paid. In my head, I totally knew all there is to know about lighting.

The reality: I got 2 white poster boards from Walmart and used the outdoor lighting to capture my collection. I toned the photos using both VSCO and Lightroom. I took a lot of photos just for social media. In the middle of my photography session, I realized showing measurements in photos might be a good idea. So I brought in a ruler to some photos. Simple stuff and I realized, especially when starting out, this is all you need. Show your product in the best lighting you can come up with, show scale, and have a little more fun with the pictures for social media material. Think about it, most big brand websites only use a white background image and clearly it’s working for them.

Here’s a bonus tip on my list of Etsy mistakes: Just to warn you all, don’t hurt yourself on photography day. I nearly ruined my back laying on the hard ground taking my shots. I may be a weakling but don’t do what I did and over-do it. Take care of yourself!

I Launched

I clicked “publish listing” and I was so excited. And nervous.

And then real life knocked the wind out of me. My dog of 14 years, my baby, suddenly passed the next day. I am still devastated, and some days, reeling all over again. I’ve had terrible insomnia, weight loss, stomach problems, and in general, a deep depression since.

So my launch became both a thing I could not care less about and the only thing to lose myself in simultaneously. I started trying all kinds of things, maybe a bit desperately, to see what stuck to the wall as I continued throwing.

Lady up at night, probably pondering her own Etsy mistakes

Here Are All My Sleep-Deprived Etsy Mistakes

I decided “lets advertising everywhere and see what happens!”

Don’t advertise to see “what happens.” I may be wrong. It may be my total ignorance but my thought now on advertising is like what the Sharks say on Shark Tank: Have an awesome business or product that sells then pour gasoline on it. Advertising is gasoline. Don’t waste it because it’s expensive.

But I admit, I really love the new world of digital advertising. I love (and am ethically terrified) of the power of Google. I love learning about ad re-targeting and geofencing ads, all that jazz. Remember, I’m a web developer. In my job, I paste those codes in and let the digital marketers get to work while trying to soak whatever valuable morsel of knowledge they happen to mention.

So I advertised on Etsy, Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook.

I got a lot of traffic and impressions. I had a decent CTR but no sales. I’ll admit, I loved seeing how each one worked and how they differed in the various metrics. But at the end of the day, this was a total waste of my money. I hate that I spent money on this and wish I had used it for anything else.

Even worse, I didn’t even think about my customer acquisition costs. So. when I finally did the math and realized that my maximum budget per product for customer acquisition costs was already blown, I unplugged all my advertising campaigns.

Of course, advertising has its place, especially Etsy Ads. Some people get their start with Etsy ads so it is something I think most Etsy sellers should try and see for their shop. It didn’t work for my shop at this point in time and I should’ve realized that sooner.

Digital marketers and entrepreneurs smarter than me probably would have been able to make use of the money I wasted. Eventually, when I have a firmer understanding of digital advertising and a fire to start pouring gasoline on, I’ll venture back to advertising. But I will be much more educated and methodical about it!

I Expected Sales Every Day and Was Disappointed

When I wasn’t getting sales, I began to freak out. “Oh no, I’ve failed again at Etsy”, “Is it me?”, “Is Etsy broken?”, “Is my work bad?”, and “Was all my research wrong?” were among my many thoughts. After all, look at all the money I was spending on ads! It should be working. Isn’t advertising supposed to be where you put money in and more money come back out?

Remember, unlike in a corporate job where you can expect raises and promotions with the time you put in, businesses are totally unsympathetic to how much time you put into it. That’s what makes them scary and risky. All your money and sweat equity can be for nothing if you have a bad product or doing something wrong. So yes, I freaked out. Especially when I searched my product in Etsy on a fresh browser in private browsing mode and could not find any of my listings.

Then I realized… it’s only been a month.

If I want this to be a business that I’m still running successfully in 2 – 5 years, then I have to act like it. Statistically speaking, businesses can take a long time to break even. Etsy mistakes should be expected. So I sought advice from Etsy seller communities and re-focused. I got such good advice and learned more about the Etsy search. Etsy’s search algorithm, while simple in its SEO, is all over the place with how it presents listings. Etsy shows different listings for each user (based on their browsing history, location, cookies, etc) even at different times of days!

I also learned that fluctuations are part of the e-commerce landscape. Amazon, eBay, and any online marketplace platform have fluctuating sales. You have to learn to ride with it.

So with all that in mind, I also realized from their advice that I WAS doing something wrong.

I Didn’t Understand My Product (Enough)

Without giving away my product or niche, I tried to market my shop as a designer or luxury shop. Why? I wanted to back up my premium higher-end pricing. My desire to explain my pricing made sense but I was doing it poorly. I sell a commodity. Commodities are not luxury or designer products.

I had to rethink how I explain my premium pricing and review my taglines, copy, and branding altogether to reflect a stronger positioning. Instead of using words like “luxury” and “designer”, I now am using words like “durable”, “premium” and “quality“. Being able to prove those words are true is something else I’m continuing to work on. I do believe I’m a higher quality and more durable product but I needed to more clearly explain (and show) that to an average person on the internet.

The Three Things I’m Focused On Now

I realized Etsy can be a numbers game. The more listings you have, the more likely you are to be found in search. So I am making more products. I’m allowing myself to take a few risks and I am having a blast creating new stuff to sell. I’m also creating more listings for sets and combinations. Your number of listings really starts to add up doing this.

Not only that, but I’m also testing different photos and adding text to the feature image so it’s extra clear what I’m offering. I think I am already seeing a higher conversion rate from this.

I also went back to the basics and learned more about Etsy SEO. My first round of listing tags was pretty strong but I needed more products to extend that SEO further. How I am doing this is using keywords “for” people in my niche. So I am not just using tags that describe my product but I’m also targeting the people who would want them. More varied tags will hopefully lead to more searches and views!

With some help from an Etsy Facebook group, I learned there’s a great keyphrase I could easily rank for. I hope to dominate that keyword on and off Etsy with organic strategies.

Instead of advertising, I am focusing on organic traffic. We choose Etsy because it is a marketplace with its own traffic. Tap into that traffic. It’s slower to build, but it’s steady. It is exciting to watch the slow rise in my analytics.

But is it working?

Guys, I am already getting more sales doing all this. I’m excited! I may be “doing it!” If you take anything away from this post is that you have to show up for your shop every day.

Also, I am making a concerted effort not to compare myself with other shops, ever.  I can look at them to see what I can do better with SEO, research, photos, etc., but not to compare and let myself go into that spiral of doubt.

Conclusion

I’ve made a lot of Etsy mistakes with this launch so far: from advertising way too much, having unreasonable expectations, and not totally understanding an important aspect of my product. Learning more about Etsy, its SEO, my products, and focusing on the low costs avenues of traffic (such as making new products and listings) is so far leading me to believe I’m heading in the right direction.

Reconfiguring my perspective to play the long game rather than letting crickets defeat me is a less stressful way to be.  This is supposed to be fun and lucrative. I’m going to do this! Of course, I’m going to make more mistakes (stay tuned!) and I’m going to learn so much from them. Let’s do this together.

Share and Enjoy !


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