The Skills You Need to Thrive as a Handmade Seller

When I started my first Etsy shop back in 2007 I had no clue how many different skills it would take to grow my handmade business.  I remember creating my first listing and hearing nothing but crickets.  It was then that I realized there must be more to thriving as a handmade seller than just creating a product and taking a few photos.

When most of us come to that realization we start researching and we quickly get overwhelmed after learning about all the hats we need to wear.  So I’m ready to break each skill down for you and give you some reassurances that you don’t need to master each one right away.

There are so many skills you need to learn to really thrive as a handmade seller. Read on to learn what those skills are that can help you succeed on Etsy and beyond.

Search Engine Optimization

I remember when I first heard SEO or search engine optimization mentioned.  I had absolutely no clue what it meant or why it mattered.  And because I had no clue my first Etsy shop completely tanked.

When I opened my second shop in 2016 I took the time to learn SEO and I realized it really did make all the difference.  When I really spent the time perfecting my SEO my views and my sales started to skyrocket.

Want to learn more about SEO?  This post will tell you what SEO is and why it is so important to achieving consistent sales.

Photography

Good photos are absolutely crucial to achieving sales on any handmade selling platform.  If your photos are dark, out of focus, or don’t showcase the product well buyers won’t click on them.  The buyer likely won’t know why they aren’t clicking but they’ll know the photo doesn’t appeal to them.

Product photography might seem overwhelming but taking the time to learn a little bit about getting the right light on your products (hint: natural light is best) and to learn a few quick editing tricks can make all the difference.

If you’d like to learn a few tips to get you started with product photography check out this post.

Social Media Marketing

Between Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and Twitter you’re likely wondering where you should even start when it comes to social media marketing.  Plus it probably feels impossible to get any interaction with your posts.  You may feel like you’re spinning your wheels and not really accomplishing anything.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.  There are tips and tricks for each platform that can make all the difference.  It’s just a matter of focusing on one platform and really learning it well instead of trying to tackle every social media platform at once.  One of my favorite social media resources is the blog at Later.com which shares a ton of good info about Instagram.

Copy Writing

This skill isn’t discussed very often among handmade sellers but it’s a big one.  Learning how to properly write product descriptions and social media posts so that buyers will want to purchase or engage with your brand can give your business a huge boost.  Even learning to write a great tagline or about section for your Etsy shop can make a huge difference and determine if your customers want to connect with you.

But never fear.  There are some really great copy writing resources out there that can help and just like learning to write a good term paper, this is a skill that anyone can master with a little bit of practice.  I love checking out the articles at Copyblogger for copy writing tips and tricks.

Customer Service

Dealing with customers in a professional manner isn’t a skill most of us are born with.  Especially when working with difficult customers.  It can be so tough to know what to say and how to resolve issues that may arise.  But great customer service is key for handmade sellers.  When you offer amazing service your buyers will reward you with great reviews which will lead to more sales.

On the flip side, poor customer service will lead to bad reviews and buyers may even open cases against your shop which can lead to Etsy closing your shop.  So it’s definitely an area where you should ask for help if you have any questions or if you’re unsure how you should deal with a difficult customer.

Feeling Overwhelmed?

If you’re feeling overwhelmed after reading about all these skills you’re not alone.  But remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day and the same is true of your handmade business.  You can learn these skills over time.  As long as you’re working consistently to grow your business you’ll be fine.  So try not to get overwhelmed or feel like you need to be a pro at everything right away.

I do recommend investing time into growing your business and your knowledge.  It really will make all the difference in whether your business grows and succeeds over time.  Just remember to go at your own speed, however slowly that may be.  Don’t compare your journey to anyone else’s.  You’re doing this for you and your own business is all that really matters.

A great place to get started learning is the free Handmade Journey Facebook group.  I also have some super exciting things coming for you in the near future that will help you grow your skill sets even more!

Want even more help optimizing your listings for Etsy SEO?

5 New Ways to Drive Traffic to Your Etsy Shop

There are a lot of traditional ways to drive traffic to your Etsy shop that get talked about over and over.  Working on your SEO and posting frequently on social media are the two areas where most Etsy sellers spend the majority of their time.  But if you’re ready to try something new there are other creative ways available to you.  Read on to learn 5 new ways that you can drive traffic to your Etsy shop.

Tired of using the same old methods to drive traffic to your Etsy shop? Check out 5 new tips to try to increase your views and your sales.

Collaborate with other sellers

Collaborating with other sellers is one of my favorite ways to increase traffic to your Etsy shop.  I recommend finding a seller who is marketing to a similar target audience.  For instance, if you sell soap you may want to connect with a seller who sells wash cloths.  If you sell earrings you may want to connect with a seller that sells bracelets.

There are many different ways that you can help each other.  You can share each other’s products on social media.  You can set up an Instagram pod and hype up each other’s social media posts.  You could also host a giveaway together.  Check out the next tip for info on giveaways.

Host a Giveaway

Giveaways are an amazing way to build buzz around your Etsy shop and get new followers on social media.  My favorite way to host a giveaway is to collaborate with another seller so that you can get the giveaway in front of your followers as well as their followers.  This is great exposure for your shop and a great way to gain new followers.

One way to do this is to set up a giveaway on Instagram.  One of the entry qualifications should be to follow the Instagram accounts for you and the seller you’re collaborating with.  Social media platforms often change the rules for what is allowed when hosting a giveaway so before you host one make sure to read up on Instagram or Facebook’s latest rules.

Set up an Email List

An email list is crucial for your handmade business, especially if you plan to set up a standalone website down the road.  I compare an email list to a savings account.  You’ll make deposits now as you get new signups that you can cash out later when you send marketing emails.  Most people aren’t as eager to give out their email address these days so make sure to offer them an incentive such as entry into a giveaway or a percentage off their next order once they sign up.

For an email marketing service, I love MailChimp because it’s free for up to 2,000 subscribers.  MailChimp will allow you to collect email addresses and will also allow you to send emails to your list.  They have recently added free automation so you can even set up automated emails to go out to new subscribers as they join your list.

Participate in a craft show or vendor event

Local events, especially those in the 4th quarter of the year can be a really great way to boost sales.  Look for a fall or holiday event.  Make sure to double check the booth fees and any commissions that the event holders may request before you sign up to make sure you feel confident you can still make a profit.  Also ask about past attendance to make sure it sounds worthwhile of your time.

To drive traffic to your Etsy shop after the event, make sure you have promo materials like brochures or cards to hand out to the event attendees with your web address and email listed.  Also, make sure you collect email addresses during the event so that you can market to the attendees later and direct them to your Etsy shop.

Host online parties

Take a cue from direct sales companies and offer to host an online party for a family member or friend.  It’s as easy as setting up a  Facebook event for the party and figuring out incentives and hostess rewards.  Link to your Etsy shop inside the event and add photos of your products to the event.

A lot of companies offer the hostess 10% of total sales in credits once the total party sales reach a certain amount.  I would recommend giving out a few incentives or prizes to attendees to build excitement.  An example could be a coupon for $10 off a $50 purchase.

Another way to build excitement is to go live inside the event or add a video where you show off some of your products.  Also, make sure you’re regularly checking the event to answer any questions shoppers may have.

Try out something new for your Etsy shop

These are just a few ways you can drive additional traffic to your Etsy shop.  SEO is still the most important way to drive traffic but it’s a good idea to branch out and try a few different things.  Try one of these out or get creative and see if you can use one of these suggestions in your own way to help drive traffic.

Want even more help optimizing your listings for Etsy SEO?

What Really Happens After You Create Your First Etsy Listing

You’ve taken the big leap and started an Etsy shop.  You’ve created an awesome product and you’ve gone through the confusing steps of creating your first Etsy listing.  Give yourself a huge pat on the back because many makers don’t make it that far.  But your first listing is just the beginning.  So what really happens next?

After you create your first Etsy listing it may feel like the hard work is over. But really it's just beginning. Learn what really happens for an Etsy seller after creating their first listing.

You Wait

Etsy listings build momentum over time. It can take time to build that initial momentum that will help you start to see consistent sales.  So you’re going to likely be waiting a bit before your first sale happens.  I know this part can be frustrating because you’ve put in a good amount of effort already and it’s hard to be patient.

So here are a few things you can do to help shorten that wait:

  • If you have family and friends who you think might want to help support your venture, reach out to them. You can create a special discount code to give them extra incentive to make a purchase.
  • Try Etsy Promoted Listings.  Promoted listings are ad spaces that help boost your products placement in the search results.
  • Create social media accounts for your business and share your new listings there.  A Facebook page is a great place to get started.
  • Try introductory pricing where you start your product off at a lower price.  Make sure that the regular price is listed so that buyers understand the value of the product. I list the introductory price in the image as seen below and at the top of the product description.  Mention that the introductory price is available limited time only to encourage buyers to act quickly.

You Realize You Need to Learn All About SEO

Many sellers have no clue what SEO is or why it’s so important.  If that’s you, no worries.  Search engine optimization is something that everyone struggles with but it can make a huge difference in your shop.

Take the time to read through my SEO articles here on the blog and you’ll be well on your way to learning what you can do to ensure your listings appear in the search for as many Etsy buyers as possible.

You Discover Good Photos Are a Must

Good photos can make all the difference in how many views your listing receives.  Buyers prefer bright and inviting photos where the product is showcased on a neutral background.  Use the same background for all of your photos for a cohesive look.

You’ll also need to find a great spot to take your photos.  Avoid direct sun because it’s just too harsh.  My favorite spots are right beside a big window or outside under a porch.

Photography training can go a long way toward improving your photos.  Taking time to learn a few basics like how to get the best light and how to edit your photos will make a huge difference.  Check out my photography tips blog article to get you started.

You Find Out You’ll Be Wearing a Lot of Hats

When you open an Etsy shop you’re starting a business.  Running a business requires a lot of skills in areas that you may not be familiar with like marketing, shipping, customer service, and so much more.

I know it can seem tempting to try to learn everything at once but just start with the essentials.  If you’ve created a listing go ahead and research what you’ll use to package your order.

Then figure out which shipping service you’d like to use.  If you’re in the US I recommend using the US postal service.  You can print labels right through Etsy at a discount.  If you’re using USPS Priority Mail shipping you can even get free boxes.

You Do It All Over Again

The more listings you have the better chance you will have of achieving consistent sales. After you’ve created your first Etsy listing make a short term goal of adding 5-10 listings.

It’s important to keep innovating and trying new things to see which products will do best for you on Etsy.  Make a long term goal of getting to 50 listings.  Many sellers report that they start to see consistent sales on Etsy when they get to 40-50 listings.

Hang in there and focus on moving forward little by little.  Don’t start out feeling like you need to tackle everything.  This is your own handmade journey so don’t compare yourself to other Etsy shops.  Just do what feels right for you and stick with it!

Want even more help optimizing your listings for Etsy SEO?

Etsy Fall Keyword List

Fall is my absolute favorite season.  Pumpkin spice everything, sweaters, and no more humidity!  It’s time to start putting fall keyword phrases into relevant listings.  To help get you started making over your listings for fall, I’ve created an Etsy fall keyword list for you.

Autumn is almost upon us. Check out this list of Etsy fall keyword phrases for use in your Etsy shop.

  1. Fall
  2. Autumn
  3. Thanksgiving
  4. Autumn Centerpiece
  5. Fall Mantel Decor
  6. Thanksgiving Table
  7. Harvest Decor
  8. Cold Weather Gear
  9. First Thanksgiving
  10. Thanksgiving Outfit
  11. Fall Planner Stickers
  12. Fall Themed Party
  13. Give Thanks
  14. Fall Banner
  15. Pumpkin Spice

If you’re still struggling to come up with keyword phrases, you’ll love the resources inside the Handmade Journey Academy.  Our members receive extensive SEO training, longer keyword phrase lists for every season and holiday, access to Etsy experts to get all of their questions answered, plus a whole lot more.  The doors are opening again soon!  Click here to be notified when the doors reopen.

Why is Etsy SEO so Complicated?

Etsy SEO is hard. But why does it have to be? Read to learn the reasons that it's complicated as well the factors that impact Etsy SEO.

I get this question a lot from Etsy sellers.  Why does Etsy SEO which stands for search engine optimization have to be so complicated? (If you’re not sure what SEO is, click here to learn the basics.)  I also see a lot of veteran Etsy sellers talk about the good ol’ days when it didn’t take so much effort to generate sales.  I want to try to explain why it needs to be so complicated.  This is a lot of info but hang with me and at the bottom you’ll be able to grab a free Etsy SEO Checklist. First, some stats on Etsy as of the end of 2016:

Number of Active Etsy Sellers – 1,748,000

Number of active Etsy buyers – 28,566,000

Those numbers are super high.  Etsy is growing at lightning speed.  Almost 200,000 active sellers joined Etsy in 2016.  That’s over 500 new Etsy sellers signing up every day.  Buyers are becoming more aware every day of how corporations are taking over and they’re making a bigger effort to spend their money supporting small businesses.  Also, when people are buying gifts, it’s harder than ever to find something unique that the recipient doesn’t already have.  What better way to solve that problem than with a unique handmade gift?

What does this have to do with Etsy SEO?

All this means that Etsy needs to help buyers zero in on what they’re looking for.  The number of products currently appearing on Etsy is staggeringly large.  In May of 2016, there were over 35 million active product listings.

Etsy is working to make a sale, otherwise, the buyer will leave unhappy and shop somewhere else.  This means they need to present Etsy shoppers with products that are most likely to result in a sale.  How do they do this?  With a complex set of rules called an algorithm.  These rules help determine where Etsy products will appear in the Etsy search results.

Which factors make up the Etsy SEO algorithm?

Etsy updated the search algorithm in September of 2018.  The info below has been updated to include these changes.  To learn more check out this page from the Etsy seller handbook.

Tag and Title Relevancy

  • The words that a buyer uses to search on Etsy must be in the title and/or the tags or a listing won’t appear.  If you have the phrase ‘blue necklace’ in your title or tags and a buyer searches for the phrase ‘blue star necklace’ your listing won’t appear if you don’t have the word star within your title or tags.  This helps the buyer view only items that contain exactly what they’re looking for.

Item Attribute Relevancy

  • Keywords entered in the attribute section of a listing are considered in the Etsy search results in a similar way to the keyword phrases in the titles and tags.  These attributes are just another way to describe your items and will help buyers search in a different way in the future when Etsy adds search filters based on these attributes.  Try to fill in as many attributes that are relevant as possible per listing and don’t use the exact phrase you’ve used in an attribute in your tags because you’ll already be appearing for that phrase.

Category Relevancy

  • Keywords that appear in the category names of a listing are considered in the Etsy search results in a similar way to the keyword phrases in the titles and tags.  Try to choose the lowest level category possible so that your listing will appear in that category and all above it and don’t use the exact phrase you’ve used in the category name in your tags because you’ll already be appearing for that phrase.

Listing Quality Score

  • Etsy looks at how well a listing converts—how many people view it and then make a purchase—to determine whether buyers are interested in it, which boosts that listing’s quality score and placement in search results.
  • If you get a lot of views but not a lot of sales Etsy will see that people aren’t interested in your product.  For this reason, I don’t recommend playing favorite games that are popular on Facebook or sharing your product with groups that likely aren’t your target market because they result in empty views.

Customer & Market Experience Score

  • Reviews have an impact on the search results.  Great reviews will give you a boost in the search and negative reviews will hurt your shop’s ranking.  This helps reward shops that are delighting their customers.
  • Having a completed about section and a completed shop policies section using Etsy’s provided template will give you a slight boost in the search results. This helps reward shops who have taken the time to properly set up their shop.
  • Recent cases opened against your shop or any past reported intellectual property infringement listings will have a negative impact on your search engine ranking.  This discourages poor customer service and the trademark or copyright infringement.  (Things like using words or phrases from a movie, tv show, sports team, song lyric or directly copying another seller’s work).

Recency

  • To help keep the search results fresh and to give new products a chance, recently listed or renewed products will be given a small temporary boost in the search results.  This temporary boost can last anywhere from a few hours to a few days, depending on how often people are searching for a particular item.
  • Regularly renewing your items or creating new listings just to get this small boost isn’t an effective search optimization strategy.

Shipping Price

  • To encourage Etsy sellers to keep shipping prices as low as possible Etsy search factors shipping price into search ranking to make it easier for shoppers to find listings with competitive shipping prices. Listings with lower shipping prices are more likely to rank higher in search.

Translations and language

  • When you set up your shop on Etsy, you choose a shop language. The titles and tags you add to your listings should be in the language you choose during setup. Etsy will translate your keywords and show shoppers results that match their query and language settings.

Shoppers’ habits

  • Etsy also customizes the search results to specific shoppers. Their Context Specific Ranking technology learns what buyers are interested to show them the items they’re most likely to purchase.
  • When you search on Etsy, what you see isn’t always what another buyer might be seeing. Searching for your own listings and comparing the results over time or across devices isn’t an effective way to determine where your listings are appearing in search, since the results you see are just a small slice of a much bigger picture.

But why does ETSY SEO need to be so complicated?

Etsy truly is doing their best to help buyers find products they are looking for and to capture a sale.  I think all handmade sellers would agree that it’s important that buyers are presented with items that they are most likely to purchase.  This means that a fellow Etsy seller has a better chance of receiving a sale.

The alternative is that the buyer getting frustrated and leaving Etsy to shop on a site where a corporation will receive all the profits.  The Etsy SEO search algorithm helps ensure the future of all of our handmade businesses by giving the Etsy buyer a great experience that ends in a sale.

So how can I get my products to appear in the search results?

I know all the factors above can be extremely overwhelming and seem unnecessarily complicated. It would be so amazing if we could join Etsy, quickly add a few listings and make some sales.  But rarely in life is something worth doing so easy.  It requires research and effort to succeed in an ever expanding online retail space.

The competition is intense!  Hundreds of new Etsy sellers are signing up every day.  It’s possible to stand out among the competition but you have to put some work in.  Fortunately, this blog, as well as the Handmade Journey Academy will save you time and effort by giving you my tested Etsy SEO tips and tricks.

The first place I recommend that you start working on SEO is in your titles.  It’s the most efficient and effective way to start seeing results in your Etsy shop.  Check out this blog article that has all the tips you need to construct Etsy product titles that will help you get found in the Etsy results.

Once you’ve worked on your titles and your tags, the next area to focus on is your photos.  Having great photos is the key to getting views and sales.

Want even more help optimizing your listings for Etsy SEO?

Disclaimer:  The above info is what has worked really well for me in my experience of running a successful Etsy shop.  While it has worked for me, you may experience a different result.  Make changes slowly and be sure to save any previous information you are replacing in case you find that your previous choices worked better for you.

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