Etsy Custom Order Etiquette

Every Etsy Shop is going to treat Custom Orders differently. But based on my 5+ years of experience selling on Etsy, here are my main recommendations on how to treat Custom Orders:

If you feel like a customer is asking for something strange or unreasonable, politely decline

Once in a while, you'll get someone crazy asking for some ridiculous custom order for something that has nothing to do with your Etsy Shop. They'll show you a crazy picture of some puppy jumping over a pit of fire, in neon pink and green, and ask them if you can sew it onto their favorite grandmother's blouse. But you sell black leather purses! What? How did this happen? Just politely say, "I'm so sorry but I think that another Etsy Shop would be better at creating that than I am!" Use your gut when selecting who you want to do custom orders with. If their customizations seam realistic and reasonable, and they ask in a polite way, you can move on to the next step. 


If your customer is asking for a customization very similar to what you offer, you'll most likely have a good experience.

This is not always the case. Let's say you sell something on Etsy that is black. And a customer wants a custom alteration for a Dark Blue design instead. Most Etsy customers will be reasonable, and understand that there are many different shades of dark blue. But once in a while you'll get someone picky who has a very, very particular shade of dark blue in mind. Most of the time, however, customers who only want minor alterations of items you already make are a good way to start a relationship and create a custom listing. 


Show your Etsy Client concepts and revisions before making the final product

This is the best way to ensure the customer is happy with their product. Show them a sketch, mock-up, or half-finished product to make sure they are happy with how it is coming out. This ensures that your customers know what's going on with the custom order process, and have an opportunity to say something. If they say "This looks great!" then they are less likely to complain once receiving the idea, because they had a chance to correct any issues before getting the final products.


Expect around a 10% dissatisfaction rate, but a 90% satisfaction rate

When you weed out your custom orders by following the steps above, most of your Etsy Customers are going to be very happy with the final results. Etsy Customers are some of the gracious customers I know when it comes to selling online. Most people love to support local, small business artists and love to be gracious with them. Even if they do not absolutely love the final product, they'll still give you a 5-star review, or often times not leave a review at all if they were unhappy, they just feel bad about leaving a negative review since you are a small business.

But what I find is that 1-2% of customers will be unhappy, and retaliate against you. Often times it has nothing to do with you and your business. Most of the time, it really is that person is generally unhappy with their life and they are retaliating against you. Don't take it personally. Just expect that some of your customers, whether they are Custom orders or not, will be unhappy.

In these cases I am prepared to offer a full refund, no need to send it back (unless you sold something crazy expensive like over $200 USD). Otherwise, I refund the order. Because I don't want a bad review. And a bad review means that my Etsy Shop's future can be potentially hurt. 

I don't care if I lose some time and money, because I am thinking of the 90% to 99% of customers who are super happy with my products & services. And I am willing to deal with those 1 to 10% of customers who are unhappy in order to fulfill my dream of selling my artwork on Etsy. 


Always take the high road with your customers - always treat them with respect, and don't argue with them

If a customer is unhappy, and it is not even your fault at all, just own up to it anyways, by saying something like:

"I am so sorry that you had a bad experience with my Etsy Shop. As an apology, I am fully refunding your order. I am so sorry for the inconvenience."

And leave it at that. Nine times out of 10, the customer leaves a 5-star review for your great customer service. 


Looking Ahead On Etsy In 2018

How can you grow your Etsy Shop in 2018?

Today, I discussed this and much more with Ijeoma of the 'Etsy Conversations' podcast, including:

1) How to deal with the changing Etsy algorithms

2) Keeping your Etsy Shop and working to make it grow

3) Advice for Etsy sellers looking ahead in 2018

Pushing Your Dreams To Their Limits

Last September, October & November were some of the worst months for me ever in my website design business. As my primary job, I help businesses develop minimalist websites & branding to help establish them as a leader in their industry. My business, JPW Design Studio, has typically accounted for 60% of our family's income. Some months are way up and others are way down. A lot of my business's success has to do with what month of the year it is. For instance, December is the worst month ever, while January tends to be crazy. And Etsy has been a great help in keeping our finances stable. While it typically accounts for about 40% of our income, it is a lot more stable than my web design business. Things go up a little, and down a little, but it doesn't fluctuate in unpredictable and crazy ways. 

But last year, I started to get jaded with my web design work. I got bored of doing the same thing over and over. And I think my lack of passion for my own work reflected in the fact that I wasn't getting a lot of business. I didn't try hard to follow up with new clients, or schedule an initial phone call conversation. I didn't think about how to grow my business to new heights. And I didn't think about what would help me become passionate again.

But some times, you have to hit bottom before you wake up. With 3 terrible months of web design business, I finally woke up to the fact that I had to start doing things differently if I want to take care of my family financially and my wife and 2 sons thrive in life. I needed to start studying marketing, how to sell better, how to grow a business, and how to change the direction of my business to match peoples' needs in 2018.

A few weeks ago, I was watching the show Shark Tank. One participant came on and was from a foreign country, immigrating to the United States. He said the first few months in the U.S., he had no money, sleeping on the floor in an apartment, in the dark, and he felt a cockroach crawl over him while he was trying to sleep. This person knew he was at rock bottom in his life, having absolutely no money or assets to have any sort of quality of life. He got up the next morning and decided to do everything in his power to create a life of his own that was meaningful and successful. And just a couple years later, he was on Shark Tank presenting his own business idea that would be shown in front of millions. 

One of my biggest faults in my own work is that at some point, once I start to feel more successful than I imaged, I then stop learning. I start grinding out work and I forget to be inspired. But I often try to remember that presenter on Shark Tank. I don't want to be the person that watches all of my opportunity and success disappear. Success comes from hard work, but also learning, planning out new goals, and writing out the steps required that must be taken every day to reach those goals.

In December, I started reading books about business again, and about marketing - how to set goals, work effectively, inspire others, and pushing dreams to their highest limits. I read books like Smarter Faster Better and When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing.  Now I am going through books like Virtual Culture and The Power Of Moments. Each of these books are writing my successful people, or written about how successful people operate. And they are changing the way I think and act in my day-to-day life. 

A popular saying goes: "If you are not growing then you are dying." And that is completely true. There is no way to just "keep things as they are" and just coast along. If you are just trying to float, instead of fly, then eventually you will drown. That is why it is super important to keep learning, keep doing, keep growing, and keep trying.

When you try to build your dreams on Etsy, or in any other place, you have to push yourself further than you ever think you could go. And the best way to do that is to keep learning, talking with people, trying things out, get out there and test ideas, and learn from others.

I want to encourage you to make 2018 your best year ever. Don't just learn from one place, or one person, or one concept, or one idea. Keep growing as much as you can, so that you can push your own dreams beyond any limits.

Preparing Your Etsy Shop For Valentines Day

The next big holiday people celebrate is Valentines Day. And Etsy released a helpful data chart of search volume for people who buy for Valentines Day. 

Right now, people are beginning their search for Valentines Day gift ideas on Etsy, and it will peak around January 23rd, and essentially be over on February 7th, one week before Valentines Day. Below is the chart Etsy provided all Etsy Sellers today. 

 Data provided by Etsy, Inc.

Data provided by Etsy, Inc.

In light of this data, here is what I recommend:

  1. Make roughly 5 new items on your Etsy Shop with the idea in mind that the item would be gifted or used for Valentines Day.
  2. Research keyword ideas that would are popular according to Etsy Search results, but around 2-3 words in a Keyword Phrase, to work well with your product.
  3. Quickly create a prototype of your new item and get it up on Etsy as quickly as possible.
  4. If it starts to get views, customers questions or sales, quickly improve the item's design, listing description, pricing and photography. 
  5. Make sure this is all done and completed before January 23rd.
  6. These items do not have to be "Valentines Days" specific. They can be items that sell year round as romantic gifts, for anniversaries, birthdays, Christmas gifts, etc. But it helps to have Valentines Day as a starting point to inspire a new product design. 

This means you have the next 2 weeks to get this process started and up on Etsy. You may not make a ton of money, but take the Holidays as a time to spur some new ideas and innovation and set a habit for rotating out old, bad designs and replacing them with new, trend-inspired designs.

One of our biggest mistakes on Etsy was not continually creating brand new ideas, based on the trends and seasons, with brand new keyword combinations. When we rotate designs, allow old listings to expire, and create brand new designs, it is one of the easiest ways to continually see sales come in, because we are not relying on old ideas. 

4 Things To Sell On Etsy In January 2018

In December, almost all purchasing has to do with gifts, or Christmas decor, or other holiday and seasonal items. But right when Christmas ends, people slowly shift back into what they were doing before all the Holiday activities. As soon as New Years Day arrives, people will get back to their normal family and personal routines. But, in addition, most people think about their goals, ideas, and dreams for 2018. 

In January, the following 4 categories tend to do very well, and sometimes last for several months later. 

1. Fitness, Healthy Food, and Clean Living
Most people gain a few pounds in December, so January is the perfect time to focus on getting back in shape and pursuing healthier eating habits. In fact, January is the #1 month of the entire year for healthy living, diets and improved fitness, even more than the Summer time when people spend more time outdoors. This trend drastically falls away by February.

2. Wedding Planning, Baby Showers, Birthdays and Anniversaries
The Holidays take away from a lot of normal yearly activities, like birthdays and baby showers. In addition, a lot of marriage proposals are done during the Holidays as it's a more romantic time of year, which means Wedding Planning starts in January. Most Weddings occur between May and October, which means anything wedding-related or Anniversary-related will start in January and gradually pick up all the way until October. So January is the perfect time to start planning and creating items for all these categories.

3. Home Decor, Furniture, Storage, and Organization
In December, most people spend their money on holiday decor and Christmas gifting. Once all of that is over, a lot of families take a deep breath and purge all of that focus on the Holidays by renewing their normal home activities and updating their decor, furniture, and other household items. This trend typically begins in January, and slowly declines until the summer when most people take big vacations. As September hits, summer vacations end, the focus tends to be on "Back To School" which is quickly followed by Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. So home decor, interior design, and home organization is typically the most popular from January to May.

4. Back To School, Calendars, Planners, Learn A New Skill, Start A Business
We typically also get this around August & September when the school year hits, but January feels very similar in the sense that most kids go back to school, and a lot of adults start thinking about their goals for the year, like starting a business, taking their own classes, and planning out their future. These topics tend to do well in August, but they can often be big hits in January as well. 

No matter what you sell on Etsy, it is important to re-think your selling strategy to take advantage of trends and seasonal changes to help your Etsy Shop grow to reach new customers, and expand into new categories. Don't just keep doing the same thing over and over. Instead, expand into new areas that can help you make selling on Etsy your full time job.

Learn more about selling on Etsy and grow your own business

Our 3 Biggest Mistakes From Selling On Etsy

Now that we've been selling on Etsy since March 2013, and almost 5 years of lots of successes and failures, it's easier to see what big mistakes we have made looking back. 

For the very first year of selling on Etsy, we made very little money. Probably only a few hundred dollars over roughly a 12 month period. But in March of 2014, we hit our first milestone: $300 in a single month! Ever since then, I poured time in every day to grow our Etsy shop. And in January of 2015, we made $7000 in a single month. It was a rush to see a ton of success in just a few short months.

But in the entire year of 2015, our success did not continue to grow like it did before. It sort of floated up and down every month, never really reaching new heights. I still poured time into our Etsy Shop every day, but we never saw the crazy growth we had gotten in 2014. And while it was amazing to have such as great amount of side income from Etsy, it was also frustrating and hard to figure out why things were not continuing to grow. 

A couple years later, and having experimented and tried out a lot of new ideas, I've learned a lot of new things about selling on Etsy. 

Here are the 3 biggest things I've done poorly when selling on Etsy:

1. Keeping old listings on our Etsy Shop which never sell.
The idea was that the more listings we had, the more views we could get through Etsy Keyword searches, and therefore more sales. More views equals more sales, right? But this idea was only half right. While we were getting more views overall, the overall quality on our Etsy Shop was a lot lower because we had almost 1,000 listings. With so many designs, and just me and my wife working on them, it was hard to make sure that all of those items are things people want to buy. Overall, we had too much going on, and the quality was not high enough. People started to lose trust in us and could tell that we were no longer at the top of our game. 


2. Not developing brand new designs on a regular basis to keep up with the seasons and trends.
Similar to item number 1, we were not creating brand new, interesting and inspiring designs that kept up with trends, new seasons, and new innovations. We just kept making the same things over and over, with different variations. This worked for a couple of years, but eventually, our designs were behind the times. We were no longer the leader on Etsy making the best designs ever. Instead, we stayed stuck in the success of 2014 and 2015. Today, we are focusing expanding beyond just printable art to all sorts of other categories. We allow our old listings to expire, and replace them with brand new designs and ideas that are current and fresh, while ensuring that the keywords we use are also relevant to the seasons and trends of today.


3. Not thinking of brand new Etsy Shop ideas or going after new kinds of customers.
For the most part, my focus was just on this one little niche of Printable Art. It was doing so well, that the idea of trying something else was maybe a little intimidating, which is terrible because my whole life I have always been excited to start a new business idea and try something new. But I got wrapped up in the success of our printable art shop, that I stopped being creative. Instead of being an entrepreneur, I become more like a workhorse, and lost sight of the bigger vision. Once we hit a certain amount of success, I should of thought of what the next, bigger step was going to be, and set my sights and visions even higher. Instead, I sort of sat in my own success and stayed there. Only a year later did our Etsy Sales start so slowly fall until it was too late to play catch up. In a sense, we've had to work a few months pretty hard to fight our way to even bigger heights that we should have been doing 1 or 2 years ago.


I hope you learn from my failures and not have to experience them yourself. But the one good thing that has come out of these failures, is that I am going to make sure I never make these mistakes ever again on Etsy. And that is often the most important part of being a business person and artist. You must force yourself to keep moving forward, allowing yourself to fail and succeed at all times, and pivot your ideas when they are not working. On Etsy, there is only opportunity for success if you are willing to take advantage of the changing trends online, the way Etsy operates, and the way business online and offline works. 2018 is an exciting time to start and grow a business on Etsy.