My First Month on ETSY: What I’ve Learned, Mistakes, and Should you start one?

Just looking at how I wrote listing titles, tags, and descriptions at the beginning of this month is crazy compared to how much I've grown. There's truly a whole SEO system on the platform that every Etsy seller seems to be following. All the pros already knew about longtail keywords, keyword analysis softwares, catering their products to what's trending, and social media marketing. I decided to sign up for some email courses, watch some videos, and search Pinterest for assistance. So here's what I've learned from this first, very eventful month.

Welcome lovelies. If you’ve been keeping up with me at all, you’ll know that I officially opened up my Etsy Shop, SassyCrochetPaints, a month ago. On July 1st, I finally made the leap. I had talked about opening an Etsy shop for years, but never got around to doing it simply because I didn’t think my items would actually sell. Plus there was the issue of not even knowing what to sell in the first place. I’m sure there are many of you like that out there.

Etsy can be a daunting new platform to try to grow your business on. There are already so many people using the site, and everyone seems so incredibly talented (And everyone actually is–it’s a bit insane.) It’s definitely a bit nerve-wracking starting out, with all the competition on the market. First, you have to find your niche. But the real challenge is finding a way to stand out. You have to find your thing. That’s really what I’ve been working on mastering this first month.

I was so unfamiliar with this platform, I didn’t even know that selling digital products was so huge on the site. I’ve since fallen in love with the thought of creating a form of passive income through designing my own svg files. Just looking at how I wrote listing titles, tags, and descriptions at the beginning of this month is crazy compared to how much I’ve grown. There’s truly a whole SEO system on the platform that every Etsy seller seems to be following. All the pros already knew about longtail keywords, keyword analysis softwares, catering their products to what’s trending, and social media marketing. I decided to sign up for some email courses, watch some videos, and search Pinterest for assistance. So here’s what I’ve learned from this first, very eventful month.

The biggest things I learned

1.) Listing Titles should use ALL 140 characters

I’m not exactly sure how new you actually are to selling on ecommerce platforms, but I know that when I started out your girl had no idea about what long tail keywords were. I literally titled one of my first pair of earrings, “Camo Hoop Crochet Earrings.” Out of all 140 characters, I literally utilized 23 of them. TWENTY-THREE of them.

I gave every product I listed the most broad, vague title. In my mind, I knew that sellers were more likely to search for “Camo Hoop Crochet Earrings,” than they were to search for “Camoflage Boho ‘camo’ Colored Hoops Crochet Earrings with leaf charms, dreamcatcher, jungle green brown forest, bohemian summer.” The latter is my title now if you hadn’t already figured. The fact though is title names need to be more inclusive so that they’ll show up in narrower, more specific searches. Your listing is most likely never going to show up on the first five pages of a broad search term like “crochet hoop earrings.”

In retail and marketing, long tail is used to refer to the large number of products that sell in small quantities, as contrasted with the small number of best-selling products. So your title needs to be very inclusive of specific searches as opposed to one general broad search. 140 characters may sound like a lot now, but once you get naming, you’ll wish you had more.

2.) All your tags should be long-tail keywords

There’s that long tail word again. Even after I understood that Long tail keywords are those three and four keyword phrases which are very, very specific to whatever you are selling, I still wasn’t tagging my products right. If you want your product to rank highly for “vintage plaid earrings,” what you don’t do is tag your listing “vintage,” “plaid,” and “earrings.” That’s three separate tags that in theory, don’t have anything to do with one another. Alone they are ALL short tail keywords that already offer thousands of other listings.

You have to be specific within each tag. So one tag should be “vintage plaid earrings.” Another tag could cater to another specific search like “red retro earrings.” You’re able to have 13 tags, and you don’t want to fill them up with vague broad words, like I started out doing. Just because earrings is a search time that’s searched millions of times per month doesn’t mean you should tag your product “earrings,” since you ‘know people will be typing that in.’ As a newbie seller with no promo ads, you’re listing will never show up anywhere near the first 10 pages. You can see my Etsy shop here for how I tag my products now.

Coming up with 13 mini phrases that are specific but not too specific can turn into a bit of challenge sometimes. I use to suggest long tail alternatives to short tail keywords. Plus there are plenty of free “keyword generators” out there like Google and the Etsy search engine itself. If I type in “crochet hoop earrings with,” in the Google search bar, I’m already given the suggestions “charms,” “cross,” “name,” and “words.” That’s 4 keywords people are already actually searching for, meaning your tags can be specific and relevant.

Google images also offers a load of additional keywords to narrow down your search. For the search term “crochet hoop earrings,” Google suggests pattern, bead, bohemian, flower, wire, heart, yellow, red, etc. (See below)

Even the Etsy search bar showcases 10 search terms that are ‘popular right now.’

3.)You have to invest time in your Photos and use all 10

I swear whenever I take my Etsy Photos, It’s like a whole mini photoshoot. When I first started my shop, your girl was adding about 4 photos to each listing. I figured a front shot, back shot, side shot, and other side shot was enough for buyers to understand what they were purchasing. Apparently though, the more photos you attach to a listing, the more chance that listing has of being found–especially in Google search. Not to mention that buyers are way more likely to purchase an item that’s been displayed to them in every possible way.

You have to show buyers the full potential off your product. They need to know the exact level of slayage your item brings. In the case of selling acessories, this means decking yourself (or another model) out in a trendy matching outfit, presentable hairstyle, and maybe even some makeup. Your pajamas just aren’t going to quite make customers feel like they need your product. Give customers a taste of exactly how perfectly your accessory can accentuate an outfit.

And even if you’re like, oh no not me Cierra, I sell decorations for perhaps, homes, rooms, or cars– you still have to set up a scenic environment. You gotta clean up your surroundings and make sure your setting is “aesthetically pleasing. Even if you sell digital products, it’s best to display your designs on physical products, like a t-shirt of mug. Fortunately some editing softwares will let you do that without actually printing anything out. Sigh of relief? Sike.

The post-photo process is just as, if not more strenuous than actually taking the photos. You have to edit all ten pictures to look like professional, quality photographs. This is especially crucial if you use a phone for your shots. Photos are meant to display every detail, so you need to be positive your exposure, sharpness, highlights, shadows, and dimensions are all spot on. Fortunately, I’m able to use Adobe Photoshop Express to edit my photos to perfection. I have the student discount which makes the cloud application so much more affordable. Look at how much different one of recent listing photographs looked before and after.

After editing (See pricing here for this product!)
Before editing

You can also use Canva for some relatively decent editing as well. If you’re one of the really lucky ones, you won’t have to edit your photos at all, but I have an LG Phone for God’s sake so it’s a must. Keep in mind that cover photos display best on Etsy when optimized for the platforms 5:4 ratio. I now always resize my photos to 2400 px by 3000 px. So long story short, capturing the shots alone takes me at least 15 minutes, and then editing the photos takes me even longer. You’ll either have to invest your time in doing it yourself, or invest your money in getting someone else to do it for you. Your investment, your choice.

4.)Instagram is the best social media to advertise your products (If your Pinterest Boards don’t have much engagement)

It was a bit of a shock to see how well Instagram did at directing traffic. Only a percentage of my IG posts are dedicated to advertising my Etsy products but It was still my main traffic lead up until I finally was invited into multiple Pinterest Etsy Group Boards. You can look at my Instagram page here to see for yourself.

Since Instagram is such a visual-based platform, it’s perfect for displaying your products to potential buyers. Photos of you wearing, using, or making your product is exactly what your audience wants to see. It’s makes the process feel personal and buyers will at least want to look at your shop. Make sure you link to your Etsy shop in your bio.

Tags are actually more essential to post descriptions than I ever realized before. While tags may not be gucci on Pinterest, they’re the main directors of traffic on Instagram. I make sure to always tag my Etsy posts with #etsy, #etsyseller, and #handmade. Then there’s the 27 other tags I craft up as well. Since those first 3 are totally short-tail, I try to make a good portion of the rest of my tags a bit more specific. But since Instagram isn’t actually a search engine, some short tail tags are necessary to make sure your posts at least get a bit of immediate exposure and engagement.

Even at the start of this month, I kind’ve considered myself to be an Instagram “pro,” having been on the platform for nearly four years but apparently I had only dipped my toe into the surface. I didn’t even know that Instagram only allowed a maximum of 30 tags per post. I also didn’t know they only allow 30 tags per comment. But if you’re catching what I’m laying down, that technically means you have 60 different terms you can tag your post with. With the relatively new feature of Instagram users being able to follow tags that means your product has way more opportunities to be found. You’ll run the risk of looking spammy with all 60 tags so make sure to add a well though-out description that actually offers details about your photo.

5.)Set your Domestic AND International shipping policies now

Ugh, I’ll rather embarrassingly admit that I offered international shipping before actually setting my international shipping policies. The naive part of me just figured Etsy would calculate shipping prices for me if I got an order from say–hmm I don’t kno–ISRAEL. But no, my shipping policies were calculated to be the same price regardless of where the purchaser was buying from. With USPS first class mail, an Etsy shipping label only cost around $2.54. Etsy automatically added that amount to my buyers’ receipts, but it would understandably fluctuate depending on the method of shipping the customer chose.

For domestic buyers, this was perfect. But I had seen everywhere online that I should be offering shipping internationally in order for my products to reach the most eyes. My listings won’t even show up in front of potential buyers if I don’t offer shipping in their area. So since it sounded so reasonable (and it definitely is actually reasonable), I offered international shipping before altering my policies.

I got an order for my economically-priced earrings at $6.99, with the added $2.54 paid by the purchaser for shipping. It all seemed peachy until I actually requested for Etsy to send me the shipping labels. It was at that moment that the $13.24 shipping label popped up with the designation location being Israel that I realized I had dug myself into a deep one. I actually ended up with a deficit after sending that product to them, rather than an expected profit. $13.24 was the cheapest price for shipping internationally so I was stuck giving away my now $8.99 product plus an additional $3.71. Don’t make the same mistake. Utilize the etsy calculator now and figure out shipping policies to every nation you’re sending to. Don’t choose the whole world before you’re ready to take on the whole world.

6.) Pinterest has tons of Etsy Group Boards

I don’t know why this was so surprising to me, but there are tons of mini communities within Pinterest that you can directly post your products to. Before I joined these group boards, all my Etsy product Pinterest Postings were falling flat. None of my personal boards had a high enough virality score, and my other group boards were completely unrelated to the Etsy niche. For this reason, Instagram drove most of my social media traffic for a good chunk of the month.

Fortunately, I now have been invited to 4 different Etsy group boards that I’m able to post my listings to and actually reach an interested audience. I’ve even used Tailwind to set up a smart loop for posting my listings twice a week to these 4 different group boards. I feel like a lot of people look at Pinterest for marketing blog posts and blog posts alone. I was sort of in this mentality at the start of this month. But Pinterest can drive a size-able amount of traffic to your shop. It’s important to make long attractive pins specifically optimized for Pinterest for maximum engagement.

There are tons of broad Etsy group boards with hundreds of sections to help viewers find what they’re looking for, but there are also very specific Etsy group boards. These narrower boards may have less followers, but they cater to exactly what the pinner is searching for. The Etsy group board I’m in: ETSY KNITTING CROCHET STITCHING EMBROIDERY QUILTING, actually has the highest virality score of all of the Etsy group boards I’m in and has a hefty 32,194 followers. You can bet buyers are actually willing to stop and look at my crochet earrings. My other group boards are much more broad, but still get the job done way better than any of my personal boards. If I wasn’t in these group boards, I personally wouldn’t feel like Pinterest did too good of job at driving Pinterest towards Etsy shops, but thanks to them Pinterest is currently battling it out with Instagram for my top click-through social media. (Even though Pinterest is “technically” a search engine. Don’t come for me in the comments.)

7.) Buyers need reminders to leave reviews (At least mine do)

A bit random I must admit, but I felt like it needed to be said. You’ll most likely need to give buyers an extra push post purchase to leave a review on your shop. I’ve made 11 sales, and only have gotten one review. I kinda just assumed most buyers would do it on their own as part of ‘Etsy etiquette’ but apparently it’s not as common as I thought.

So as a suggestion for you, when you package up your orders add a little thank you note in there with a friendly reminder to leave a review. Simple enough. Your goal as a new seller is all about building credibility and high star reviews will be your fast lane ticket to potential buyers trusting you and your shop.

Should you open a shop?

11 sales may not seem like a success to you, but to me that’s huge. A part of me really thought that my products would be a total flop but I ended up getting over 540 views. All that tells me is that Etsy offers some real hope and potential to any creative entrepreneur. So of course, I’m telling you that you should open one. Yes, it will take some work but doesn’t everything in life? Who am I to crush dreams?

Drop your shop name in the comments so I can check it out!

What are some of the biggest things you’ve learned from selling on Etsy or running your own creative business? Let me know below in the comments. I’d love to hear them and put them in action during August!

But wait!

Before you go, we want to make sure you don’t miss out on any free deals. If you’re interested, for all our creative entrepreneurs out there we’re giving away the first 3000 listings in our Masterlist of over 47,762 businesses you can start marketing business with today. You’ll receive the names of 3000 domestic U.S. businesses, including local and national companies, along with websites, phone numbers, locations, and social media links for each. This is an exclusive interactive spreadsheet you won’t find for free anywhere else on the web. A nice chunk focuses on arts & crafts companies that would be prime candidates for a creative blogger to work with. We have not yet released the 44,000 other business names but we’ll keep you posted for when we do. The full master list of 47,762 businesses will likely be for a very small fee. If we receive enough interest, we’ll give it away for free to one lucky email subscriber. The winner will be notified via email and be announced on our Instagram page here. Make sure you follow us to stay updated! Email subscribers also get the First Page Sneak Peek of Our Upcoming mini ebook “The masterguide to Creating on a Budget!” A cheapskate analysis of over 100 craft ecommerce sites.

We’ll keep you in the loop with exclusive first access to DIY & Creative Entrepreneur content– including promo codes, discounts, giveaways, sales, and more! Relevant tips, tricks, and hacks for creative entrepreneurs and DIY lifestylists straight to your email. We promise we won’t flood your inbox and to make sure all content brings personal value to you..

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Since you’ve stuck around, we’ll you a bit about ourselves. We’re full-time students who love to create and blog. Raleigh bloggers focused on hair and health. We pride ourselves in being DIY lifestylists actively spreading creative, entrepreneurial spirits and Natural Hair Beauty Enthusiasts♥

If you’re interested, we’re giving away our all-natural hair care products to one lucky email subscriber. You’ll receive a five piece Shea Moisture Jamaican Black Castor Oil Strength Grow Repair hair kit. This is the hair kit that absolutely saved our hair, leaving it softer and more manageable than ever before. Being DIY lifestylists ourselves, we aim to only use natural products filled with pure ingredients proven to promote elasticity, strength, and hair growth. Giveaway period starts July 25th and ends August 15th! Head over to our Instagram page here for additional entries! The winner will be notified via email and be announced on our Instagram page here. Make sure you follow us to stay updated! Sign up here to be entered.

Just looking at how I wrote listing titles, tags, and descriptions at the beginning of this month is crazy compared to how much I've grown. There's truly a whole SEO system on the platform that every Etsy seller seems to be following. All the pros already knew about longtail keywords, keyword analysis softwares, catering their products to what's trending, and social media marketing. I decided to sign up for some email courses, watch some videos, and search Pinterest for assistance. So here's what I've learned from this first, very eventful month.


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