online store and retail

3 common mistakes new Etsy sellers make

From mastering product photography to developing an effective go-to-market strategy, starting a new Etsy shop can often feel overwhelming—just ask any experienced seller.

“When I first opened my shop, I lacked confidence,” explains jewelry designer Pauline Hagan, “but the great thing is that hard work pays off.” Since launching her business in 2012, Pauline has turned her Prague-based shop, Benu Made, into a full-time job through careful planning and a diligent approach to business development.

And she’s not alone. In 2020, millions of sellers turned to Etsy to sell their handmade goods — many of them looking to subsidize their income or take their e-commerce business full-time. More than a quarter of sellers say their Etsy shop is their full-time job. And these shops have one in common: They know what not to do. Read on for insights on avoiding common mistakes as you build your Etsy shop.

Mistake #1: Not focusing on product photography

Photography is fundamental to the success of your shop. It attracts and engages customers and communicates important details about use, quality, and more. Aim for well-lit photos with natural light and create inviting scenes that showcase the multiple uses for your products.

Hagan’s approach to photography has continued to evolve since opening her shop. “I knew from the beginning that plain, light backgrounds were ideal,” she says, “But at the time I did a little too much editing in Photoshop, which distorted the colors.” She has since developed a fixed process for capturing photos, using a DSLR camera and bounce card to photograph her items on a marble background, utilizing natural light from a nearby window, “ideally on an overcast but bright day,” she adds.

If purchasing a DSLR or hiring a photographer isn’t feasible for your business, using a point-and-shoot camera with at least 10 megapixels and a “macro” setting is a great way to ensure you’ll be able to capture quality, detailed images that you can crop and edit.

For more tips on capturing great product photos, check out Etsy’s  Ultimate Guide to Product Photography.

Mistake #2: Ignoring the business side of running a shop

“A lot of sellers only focus on the aspects of the business that are fun for them,” says Maresa Ponitch, owner of Brooklyn-based shop Dusty Rose Vintage, such as curating or making. “They don’t realize what a small percentage of their duties that stuff is in the beginning.” Maresa recommends taking a methodical approach to starting a new business, paying special attention to  pricing , expense tracking, and developing a business plan.

Don’t make expense tracking harder than it needs to be! Accounting software like QuickBooks can automatically categorize expenses, so everything is organized when it’s time to file your taxes. If you already have QuickBooks, download the “Sync with Etsy” app to make bookkeeping even easier.

Mistake #3: Neglecting the importance of tags

The tags and titles you create for your listings help shoppers find your items on Etsy. Many sellers note that creating your tags is an ongoing process, which requires experimentation, patience, and an open mind. “A good trick is to ask your friends what they would type in the search bar if they were looking for a similar product,” Hagan suggests. She’s also found that groups of words or “compound tags” work best for attracting customers.

Shop stats are a helpful tool you can use to monitor the success of various item tags. It’s important to use all 13 tags and to add some variety (and avoid repeated phrases). Think about what makes your products unique and how shoppers might search for those items. In addition to descriptive tags, consider tags that reflect who your item might make a great gift for, which shopping occasions feel relevant to your item, and other characteristics like style, size, and material.

Want to know more about creating great tags? Read Etsy’s Keywords 101 guide.

Remember: Growing a business takes time!

“I would estimate that 85 percent of creative business owners that I know give up way too soon,” says Pontich, whose shop has reached over 2,400 sales since opening in 2008. As with any e-commerce business, “it takes time and work to grow a business and hone your product line.”

But with more than 60 million active Etsy buyers (or, in your case, potential customers), it’s more than worth the effort. Learn from these mistakes to set your Etsy shop on the fast track to success.

Ready to open your Etsy shop? Get started today.

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