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The Do’s and Don’ts of Selling Successfully on Etsy

Today I’ve got a fantastic guest post for you from my friend and fellow Aussie Etsy seller Cath of My Bearded Pigeon. She has an amazing Etsy success story – hitting over 1,000 sales in her first year – but that was on her second time round! Find out the principles she followed to reach that success in today’s post…

Hello Everyone, and thank you for having me Jess.

Those of you who visit my blog chunky chooky may be familiar with what I have to say about Etsy. I am always happy to help people with their Etsy shops as I had lots of help when I started my first shop on Etsy in March 2008.

Like many of you I found the creative juices started to flow after I had a baby. I was looking for toys for my little that I liked and I couldn’t find anything that wasn’t hideously expensive and made overseas so to cut a very long story short I started sewing and one step lead to another and I opened chunkychooky on etsy.

I made these……

Sales were slow at first of course but as I researched and read and tweaked and re-took photos again and again and I spent hours in the etsy forums watching and learning and reading everything I could get my hands on and I eventually starting to see a few sales. More importantly I learnt a lot and made a lot of mistakes…

Fast forward two years and I decide to launch My Bearded Pigeon. So it was December 2010, I had this great idea and have found a way to make it work, but this time I knew so much more, this time I was going to be far more organized and this time I knew where to focus my energy.

So in the spirit of what Etsy is all about – sharing and community- I thought I would share some of what I have learnt since I started selling on Etsy 3 years ago. Late last year I hit my 1000th sale on Etsy. It was a massive milestone for me and came at a time our little family really needed some good news.

Many people who have bought from me have returned again and again and told their friends.

So here is by no means a comprehensive list but a good start…

DO Answer convos’ politely and promptly, I think it is great to add a bit of humour be yourself … even if it is the tenth person that week asking if you would like to giveaway a cushion on their blog. You can say “No thank you” nicely. This includes being polite even when people ask you questions you have answered numerous times in your policies, listings and shop intro. For example “can I get the cushion without the insert?” I probably get asked this at least once a week despite it saying on every listing that they come without the insert.

DO Respond to treasuries– when someone puts you in one – go over to the treasury and at the very least say thank you! That is all you have to say- sometimes you can say more, but it is nice to acknowledge that some one has taken the time. This is how you get on the front page remember – by being in treasuries.

DO Say thank you when someone orders something from your shop. As soon as I get an order I respond with a thank you and let them know when I plan to post – usually within a couple of days. I respond to the email from paypal as people new to Etsy may not check etsy convos. I find it quite bad manners when people do not acknowledge your order. I am shocked at how often I get no response when I buy something.

DO Be an active team member, I am in quite a few teams and I try to participate when I can, but of course I am not perfect and cannot participate in everything.

DO Always have your shop looking tip top! You never know when you will be featured in an Etsy finds email or on the front page or maybe even on a popular blog. So if people are coming for the first time it may be the difference of them giving you a heart and returning later or not.

DO Always have high res images ready (if you load pictures onto flickr that will help as you can download any sizes) for magazine editors or bloggers who may be interested in featuring you.

DO Remember the customer is almost always usually mostly sometimes right!

DO Follow Etsy’s rules.

DO price accordingly. Include Etsy fees, paypal fees, packaging and stationary, plus the time it takes to list the item, take photos etc, package it all up, take it to the post office plus the actual making of the item, material costs, time taken to get these materials, time taken to actually make it… what are you prepared to work for?

Be realisitic. Don’t worry so much about what other people are selling items in your category for. What do you need to make a profit? To make it worthwhile for you? I see people selling cushions for $12 and wonder how they can be making any money at all.

DO think about how to market your product. What makes it unique? Why would someone buy it? When people buy from you what are they buying? For example when someone buys a cushion from me they are buying a souvenir. They are buying the memory of a lovely holiday, the place they went on their honeymoon, the town they grew up in, the place they met their partner. They are buying something eco friendly, so I make sure I tell them this. They are buying something unique they cannot get anywhere else in the world – (I get the fabric printed myself) so I tell them that. This is fabric no one else has, you cannot buy it online – this is what I am selling (and this is why they are priced as they are) explain to them why they want to buy it and why they should buy it.

DO look at your product critically. Is it original? do people get excited when they see it? Is it unique? Can you get it anywhere else? Does it appeal to a wide range of people? I am lucky that my products appeal to women and men and people also buy them for kids too – know who you are selling too and market accordingly.

DO offer a discount for customers who buy several items. I have had many people buy over 5 cushions from me, in some instances 10+. Reward their loyalty with free postage and/or a % discount. You can make your own coupons on Etsy and people love a discount.

DO have postage listed to lots of different places, and make sure it is accurate. Do not make money out of postage, put your prices up if you need to. There is nothing worse than receiving something that cost you $10 in postage to have it say $2.20 on the envelope. Take the items to the post office and get them weighed.

Do have all your shop policies filled out. How long will you reserve items for? What about returns? what about if an item doesn’t show up? What are the postage times?

DO check your convos regularly. I have heard people say “I have a life I don’t want to be chained to the computer all day.” You don’t have to be, but you do have to check your emails at least 2 times a day I think. You have to allow for time differences. I still have most of my traffic from the US so I need to be up early answering convos and emails and also checking in again at night for responses or new convos. I think it is a huge part of an online business to be able to respond to people quickly.

DO take a really good look at your shop. Look at it from a customers perspective. Does it look neat and tidy with all the sections filled out and all the photos looking nice? Really, does it? Is it full of lots of items so you show up in searches a lot. Are you items in sections so people can easily find what they want? have you used every tag for every item?

DO BRAND EVERYTHING: when someone buys a cushion this is what they get:

There will be no confusion as it to where it came from, so people can tell their friends about you too. Put your logo on shop name on everything!

DO have your shop announcement filled out: it doesn’t have to be a huge amount of writing just a little bit about the products, same with your profile, just a little bio about yourself, why you started making what you make, what materials you use.

DO have lots of detail in your listings and your item title. Who would this be a good present for? On what occasion would you buy it for someone? How can it be used? How is it packaged – say if you are selling artwork people want to know it is going to arrive safely. How big is it? Put the size in cms and inches. It drives me mental how many people put a coin next to the item to show size? how would I know how big a coin from another country is? Are all the tags filled out – every single one?

DO have a good read and think about Etsy ads and about renewing? The thing with renewing is you need to have a bit of a budget in mind and think about when peak times are for you. I seem to get a lot of sales on Thursday and Friday night Australia times – so I renew a lot then. I seem to get less sales and traffic on the weekend so I don’t renew as much. Maybe invest in some Etsy ads? See how it works for you after a week or so…

Now, for the flipside…

DON’T Tell the customer that you think something is a bad idea. For example I contacted a necklace seller, and when I asked if I could have the chain longer I was told ” the chain is long enough”. Long enough for whom I thought? I have had people suggest things to me that I think are not great ideas but I am polite and talk my way around it.

DON’T Spam your customers… don’t send them loads for convos/emails one to say you received the order and have posted it is suffice.

DON’T Feel like you need to have a facebook twitter blog and flickr account before you can sell anything. All of these things can be very useful but they do take a bit of time to get the hang of and can be done as you go along.

DON’T Put a bad photo on Etsy, you may be tempted to quickly list something but it may be the difference between a heart and a future sale or nothing. Are you photos looking tip top – with the help of some free photo editing like picnik? Just changing the colour contrast and brightness will make a huge difference you want your pictures to really pop off the page. I use a white background for everything and I don’t put my products in a styled way. For example having the cushions on a chair etc but others swear by this so you will have to decide what works best for you.

DON’T Leave bad feedback without discussing it with the shop owner first. Be reasonable, this is someone’s business. If someone does leave you bad feedback you can use the Etsy kiss and make up feature. I have used it when someone left bad feedback because an item had not arrived – in a week from Australia to Brazil! I politely explained how huge bad feedback was for me and my business and she was happy to change it using the kiss and make up feature.

DON’T COPY!! I see people blatantly copying the work of sellers who do really well – orginal is best. Always. And people will know you have copied and think that is not very good.

DON’T obsess about the number of sales. Yes there are shops that have sold 10 000 items +++ but why worry about them? You cannot compare your shop with other shops that sell different products to yours, so don’t.

Most of all have fun! Working at home running an online business can be very difficult. Being part of a blogging community or other online groups does offer great support for you as it can feel overwhelming at times and you can feel quite isolated.

Don’t stay on the computer all day, step way for large periods and stop playing with your phone – it will do you the world of good.



Cath Young is a  crafter, blogger, mother and wife living an eco friendly life in a tiny town on the mid north coast of NSW. Cath likes taking photos and going for walks in the forest with her dog.

All photos by Cath. First image edited by me to add title.


Van Den has written 320 posts in this blog.

Jess Van Den is the editor of Create & Thrive, and has been a full-time creative entrepreneur since 2010. She makes eco-conscious, contemporary, handmade sterling silver jewellery under the Epheriell label, and blogs about her jewellery and other beautiful things at You can catch her on twitter @JessVanDen.



I get annoyed when I get an email and all it is is to say thanks for my order, even if it’s letting me know when it’s going to ship. Message me if it’ll be late, but never if it’ll be on time. I get too many emails as it is and an email just to thank me just wastes my time. That’s the reason why I don’t do it. Actually, I got an order just the other day on an item that’s made to order. I had two weeks on the item, so I messages her to let her know it was made to order and is projected to ship early. I got a super snarky response back telling me she knows and don’t worry about it. I had reason to email and still didn’t get a great response, so emailing for no reason just seems like shooting yourself in the foot.

Also, using my Paypal email just annoys the shit out of me. No one should be messaging me through my Paypal email. I have three other emails that I use for contacting people, my Paypal email is off limits. I’ve stopped buying from people when they didn’t respect this rule (usually after I message them asking them to change my contact info and they still contact me through my Paypal email). So, I only use the email attached to their etsy account if I HAVE to contact them. I expect the same in return.

Otherwise I agree with everything here and saw quite a bit I should be working on. Sometimes I get busy and forget to take care of certain aspects. Thanks for the reminder!

elaine birks

I am 84 years old and I have not done any craft work for quite a few years now(except for crochet}and I find that I have an abundance of ribbons laces buttons ec. that I need to dispose of. Is anyone interestd in purchasing them for a minimal prce?


Great advice – I have been selling for a number of years on Etsy, but I still need a kick up the butt to remind me about improving my photos, especially. Thank you!


Wonderful post! Thanks Jess! Thanks Cath!


What a great article .. I’ve never comment in a blog but I just had to on this one!! Such great tips, especially as I’m just starting up a new shop! Cheers!


Thanks for taking the time to comment, Eleni! x

Allison Dey

This is such good advice and so basic really. Good manners, nice storefront, prompt and clear communications. Thanks for hosting Cath and My Bearded Pigeon. I also don’t send a separate email to thank the customer as Etsy sends a message when product is ordered and I made that a thank you. But I do include a thank you note with the item. What I am lacking is all the branding. I finally have it online, but my business cards still function as product tags and are handmade. One day…


Sounds like you’re on the right track, Allison! And you’re right, it’s mostly just common sense, right? 🙂 I think the comments have shown us that everyone has their own preferences, too, so you just have to do what you think is best, and rely on the feedback of your customers, too.


Wow. This is all very great advice. I’m new to etsy and needed this article, thank you so much!


Thank you so much for sharing your advice Cath and to you Jess for hosting. Courtesy and good manners are so important and I think that includes when you are invited to respond to articles generously made available to you for your consideration. How you communicate your point(s) is just as important as what you say.


What a wonderful and detailed article. I have admired My Bearded Pigeon from the beginning so it’s great to get some insight from the creator. Thank you Cath and Jess.


I found this to be very informational! I started an Etsy shop back in 2009 but am just now having more fun with it and spending more energy on it as I am a stay at home mom and in turn, sales have also reflected that energy. Thanks for sharing!

Penny- Elizabeth Neil

Like Allison said, most of this is just common sense and good manners- you can never have enough of those in this world! A couple of things though – I don’t send out ‘thanks for your order’ convos – there’s a spot in the buyer’s notification where I can put all that. They get a shipping notification now and that’s all they need; anything else is just overkill. Also, I personally think the cushion image with all the branding all over it is too much. The info on the care label could either be sewn into the inside on a tag, or printed on the larger card. That would eliminate that sticker, and the little swing tag could go too. Cuts down costs and there’s still plenty of branding with the sewn on logo and the large card. Maybe it’s just me but the person who buys handmade is primarily looking for a soulful product and over-branding can sour the experience.

One more thing- I don’t advise etsy’s paid ads unless you sell a product that lots of other people sell, or you have a shop that doesn’t get updated much and will therefore drop in page one ranking. (Etsy’s search result algorithm takes shop activity into it’s considerations, this is why people who just list a few things to ‘see how it goes’ find it doesn’t go at all).

What say you?