Why most people fail at selling on Etsy


Why do most people fail to sell on Etsy – either give up or not try enough to win at Etsy selling?

Is your Etsy shop in heaven? Did you fail to sell anything on Etsy after putting in 200hrs of hard work? Alternatively, haven’t logged in for a while and eventually moved on and adopted a puppy instead? (actually, it was a cat for me)

Why did I fail at selling on Etsy

Selling on Etsy is not easy. It is not simple, and it is not a get rich quick scheme. It is a selling platform that can be used by those with enough drive to jump in and try.

Why do so many fail to sell on Etsy, leaving rich pickings for those willing enough to get it?

Kerching goes the new iPhone X. Oh yeah baby, that’s me, selling my work on Etsy while sipping an 800cal caramel late in the sunshine. – err. Nope.

Actually, this is not quite true – because it takes a shed load of work to get to this point. Probably several courses and plenty of late-night reading and planning.

*This post contains some affiliate links for your convenience (which means if you make a purchase after clicking a link I will earn a small commission. It will not cost you a penny more) Click here to read my full disclosure policy.

Feedback on failing to sell on Etsy

*I recently received a comment on this post which said – Get over yourself, not everyone can give up time to work on something which might not work.

My reply

*Wow – Getting even one shop into profit caused me RSI. I’ve definitely spent more money than I care to mention on courses and projects and windsock ideas that come during the comparison stage. Have I made a fortune? No! Am I still here every day trying – yes. – I really only want to help you lovely people.

But look – Rome wasn’t built in a day. Let’s look a few reasons why you might not be doing so well on Etsy. Believe me, it isn’t all plain sailing for the rest of us either.

Have you ever heard that every idea which comes to you stays for a few moments and if you don’t take action it moves to the next person?
I read that in a book one day if you fail to take that idea and do something with it, it floats away to someone else.

Well, I’ve floated away more than one great idea I can tell you.

I’m not going to go into detail for each item, and I want to give you something positive to do towards growing your Etsy shop. Hopefully, this list will get you off the sofa and onto creating.

Just beginning? – read How to open an Etsy shop

Let’s review the most obvious reasons why some (not all) sellers fail to sell on Etsy

They don’t have an Etsy shop plan

This doesn’t have to be fancy. Mainly it just needs to include your customer avatar, that is the person you intend to sell to. Who is your audience, what does your ideal customer look like?

It would help if you also mapped out your time – how long it takes you to make one of your items, how much you will sell it for.

How much time do you have to spend working on your shop and also making your items? Clarifying how much or how little money you will make. It’s worth doing from the outset. Otherwise, you could end up working for 4p an hour. I’ve done it.

Your marketing plan – how will you promote your shop. If you are only planning to use the Etsy search SEO, which is excellent in the beginning. How will you maximize each listing to get the most out of search?

They don’t have a business plan

As above a business plan is your overall plan for your business. Similar to that above but goes outside your Etsy shop. What tools will you use, how much will services cost, postage, packaging? Will you use outside platforms to promote your shop, what will this look like?

If you prefer to read about creating a business plan – you can find some great ideas within these business books.

Starting a Business QuickStart Guide: The Simplified Beginner’s Guide to Launching a Successful Small Business, Turning Your...
  • Colwell PhD MBA, Ken (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 287 Pages - 02/25/2019 (Publication Date) - ClydeBank Media LLC (Publisher)
Mind Your Business: A Workbook to Grow Your Creative Passion Into a Full-time Gig
  • Paige Tate & Co. (Producer) - Griffo, Ilana (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 200 Pages - 01/15/2019 (Publication Date) - Paige Tate & Co (Publisher)
The 2020 Goal-Getting Guidebook for Makers: goal-setting workbook and financial business planner for handmade shop owners
  • LeBlanc, Janet DiPirro (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 135 Pages - 10/24/2019 (Publication Date) - Independently published (Publisher)

Listing one item and hoping for success

Yes, there are exceptions. I’m sure there are shops out there with 13 items listed and make a full time living.

However, this is not the norm. I’d suggest at least 50 items before you start to see any traffic, 100+ ideally.

100 items is a good number for giving you extra insights into what is selling, what is seasonal, what can be extracted and made into a new listing.

You might also get ideas on what to list next and what to try out. All beneficial if you want to make a full time living on Etsy.

They think they have something unique.

You’ve just listed your beautiful item on Etsy and are happy with the photos, the SEO and the overall appeal. Then you have a quick search for your keywords and find that not only has your item already been ‘done’ it’s like a plague of them, but it’s also all been done before.

Don’t despair. This is perfectly normal and part of the process of selling on Etsy.

What will make you unique is taking your idea and making it better, slightly different, more upmarket, better photography, larger, an extension of a best seller.

This process is especially true in categories like planners, or printables. However, if you are selling earrings made from paper and milk, you won’t need this angle.

They forget to invest.

Of course, you know this right? – But this book teaches you to manage your money. Basically, at the end of the month, you pay yourself a percentage, and everything else goes back onto the business either in training or investment.

Profit First: Transform Your Business from a Cash-Eating Monster to a Money-Making Machine
  • Audible Audiobook
  • Mike Michalowicz (Author) - Mike Michalowicz (Narrator)
  • English (Publication Language)

If you are making things to sell in your shop or designing items you’ve already invested in a sewing machine, or pens or even a computer.

All an investment in your shop. What you need to do is invest in only those things which will make more money. So you might spend on a course to help you market your shop.

You may invest in a badge machine, so you don’t have to make them by hand, allowing you to speed up and sell for more profit.

do yo have time to open your Etsy shop or will you fail at selling on Etsy?

They don’t find the time.

Yes, those children are inconvenient sometimes. I know, I have three of them. Carving out time is vital. Without being harsh, if you wanted to, you would find the time.

So tomorrow at 5 am – get up and do.

Their branding is all off.

Guilty – this is the first thing I change what I’m feeling left behind. My advice if this is one of your problems, search on Etsy for a branding package and get it replaced asap.

If you think you have what it takes to go it alone with your branding – that’s ok too. I personally found this branding book very helpful when thinking about the look of my shop.

Brand Brilliance: Elevate Your Brand, Enchant Your Audience
  • Fiona Humberstone (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 272 Pages - 05/08/2017 (Publication Date) - Copper Beech Press (Publisher)

They don’t work hard enough.

Not all shops have to work hard in order to make sales on Etsy, there are a few shops which despite appearances don’t really ‘do much’. Ever stalked the stats on your sweet competition?

Hmmm – this is a tough one. My Wedding Shop is a disaster, and I know for sure it’s because I need to work harder on it. However, I’m procrastinating, and now I’m writing this post, which means I either don’t love it, or I’ve lost my way a bit because I thought I’d sell more than I have.

I won’t be giving up though, and I’ll just be getting up earlier next week. So should you.

They lose interest

I was into Surface Pattern design a few years ago. I still love patterns today, magazines, pretty repeats. My pattern shop is still on Etsy, but I’ve not logged on for about ten months.

If you have lost interest in your shop – try another idea, try another skill, keep getting up and doing.

Persistence is key. Actually – it’s more than that, it’s the difference between you and your nearest competition.

You will fail at selling on Etsy if you don’t give it it a chance.

” My shop has sold only one item in 2 months – I’m moving to Shopify”


Easier said than done my friends. The best part about Etsy is the traffic is passing by your shop in a steady stream of browsers, buyers and influences.

Your new Shopify shop will be on a mountain in Alaska. Because now you have to learn Facebook adverts, Instagram tagging, Pinterest marketing. (although you should already know Pinterest if you are on Etsy)

They don’t get help

The fact that you are reading this and will probably go on to read another few articles means that you are seeking help. Go, girl.

You could pop onto a facebook group and find someone who is at the same stage as you and mentor each other.
I’m always here too.

Pricing too low

If you are selling digital items, I think it’s beneficial to price very low to get those first few sales. If you mess up and someone has paid 1$ he or she is less likely to go to the Etsy police than if he or she has paid you 30$ for something.

You can iron out all the details and see how things are running. Once you are ready – slowly increase your prices in small increments.

They don’t follow Etsy’s terms.

I got into terrible trouble with the Etsy police. I purchased it from my own shop. I didn’t do it intentionally, I was using an outside provider to deliver my downloads and wasn’t sure how it all worked. But I needed to make sure it all worked.

Anyway, Etsy contacted me like I was planning a take over bid and had been manipulating the share price. Don’t do this.

This does affect your shop and your SEO – mine, will probably be left under construction for the next year.

Giving your Etsy shop a little love today will mean it will love you back next week. I know it can be tedious and slightly mind-numbing as most of us are working at home alone.

However, you can do great things with your shop, so believe tomorrow is a new day to begin to grow something amazing.

get started guide to selling prints online

Grab the free Ebook today

  • Learn how to get your art online and where to sell it
  • Tools to get started selling digital online prints today
  • Learn how which file sizes to sell so you can go hands-off right away
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Other helpful articles about Starting your Etsy shop

How to open an Etsy shop

10 things to do before starting on Etsy

How to use Pinterest to promote your Etsy shop

My 60 mistakes I made on Etsy (long read)

Enjoyed reading this article on why most people fail at selling on Etsy, pin me to your favorite Etsy tips board.

Why you are not making sales and failing at Etsy

Let me know in the comments what you will do today to improve your shop.

Why Etsy shop owners fail to sell anything

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  1. Thank you so much for this information, haven’t set up shop yet still thinking about it

    1. Hello Gillian – Thank you
      Just go for it – you have nothing to lose. What would you like to sell?

  2. Studio Zalesak says:

    I’m having issues imagining my ideal customer. It’s tough, and I’m waiting for something to click but maybe I’m not thinking about it in the right way. Help………

    1. Hi – For your ideal customer you must think of only one person and write down everything you know about them. Where do they live, style, likes, children, where they go on holiday, what colours they like, money, even what house they live in. Give them a name, make them real.
      Often these are referred to as your ideal customer as they are your main target. Only speak to them in your shop. This person – can be based on a friend if it helps. Write down every problem your customer is facing and begin to think of ways of how your product can solve that problem. How, why etc.
      Don’t skip this – it should take a day or more to complete.

      1. Studio Zalesak says:

        Thank you so much. I’m coming back to this comment after a year and I’ve fleshed out my ideal customer a lot more and now my organizing of all the business aspects of it are overwhelming me. Primarily the pricing and packaging and shipping portion. Is there an easier way to organize or are there guides out there for this?

  3. Great article! I have a bit mire motivation to keep going after my Etsy shop. But it can be a bit discouraging at times. I’ve tried using Etsy SEO (not completely sure I’m using them right), made listings with a lot of options available, tried learning more about my audience, used social media to promote and get inspired, and even made a freebie to see what I’m doing wrong with my products. Yet nothing happens and I’m wondering if I’m completely missing something here or just rushing what’s soon to come. It’s only been almost a month since I’ve open. I’m just lost.

    1. Hi
      I’m so sorry you are having a hard time. Obviously it is summer which is very slow for most shops and really a month isn’t long for selling on Etsy.
      What’s your shop name and I can have a look tomorrow at your shop.
      Have you joined any Facebook groups? They are often very helpful and you do get lots of ideas as well.

  4. Greta Nuttall says:

    Hello! Thank you for your post! I’m averaging about 500 views a month, but have only had two sales over the past 30 days or so. I had lost interest in my site for quite some time, but have started back at it in recent months. Any ideas how I can increase sales? I think my prices are competitive.
    I welcome any honest feedback to get me on track. Thank you so much!! http://www.etsy.com/shop/thegkcollection

    1. Hello Greta
      Thank you for your comment, great to hear that you are getting back into Etsy. I did have a look at your shop and again well done for getting so many items listed and making a few sales. I noticed you do have a lot of different items in your store, from Christmas decorations to jewelry and hand-dyed items. This will make it very difficult for you to target any specific keywords in your store as it would be virtually impossible to cover so many different categories. I would suggest choosing one of these items and really concentrate your efforts on having a specific niche product in your store. Probably look into other successful stores and see how they have really claimed a piece of the market by being specific in their products.
      I also would love to sell Wedding invites, Keychains, Dog collars, printable planners, but if I attempted to place them all in the same shop, it would create confusion for the customer and ultimately result in very few sales. Also, a quick tip is to improve your product titles. Think like the buyer and be exact in your description of the product, helping Etsy to find you, buyers when searching. Try using all the available space for a title and use keywords to help attract buyers
      I hope that helps a little for you. Trina

  5. HelloTrina,
    Barbara Nelson, TwistingsbyBarbara

    I opened my shop in 2017. Never made a sale until late 2018. I decided not to pull out- it takes time to learn what and what not to do. My progress is slow if not at a crawl. I make beaded jewelry (I know everybody else does too) and macrame(another one everybody else does). But My things are well made and won’t fall apart–Part of my problem is trying to understand Etsy–A lot of what they tell you I have no idea what they are talking about. And sometimes their website is impossible to figure out.I thought I had sectioned my shop, but it still ends up all together.
    However, I’m not going to quit,I hope to figure it all out in the not to distant future. Feel free to wander through my shop.
    I have a website on pets on Wealthy Affiliates.( Just so you’re not confused)

    1. Hello Barbara
      I’m sorry to hear you are having difficulty understanding Etsy terms. There is a lot to take in- but plenty of help in the handbook. The search function works well for most problems and questions you may have. With regards to your shop – please read How to list an item. Also you will find my post on Photos helpful as well to get some idea of how you can improve your photos. To change the sections in your shop – simply go to listings and then on the right – click manage sections. I hope that helps a little.

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