What Should You Sell On Etsy?

The more I sell on Etsy, the more I realize over and over that selling on Etsy requires two very essential components: 

  1. You absolutely must understand Keywords and how to use them properly on Etsy.
  2. Like any business, you need to sell things on Etsy that people actually want to spend money on.

When you connect Keywords with Good Designs on Etsy, you get Sales. There are so many ways to market your products on Etsy, such as Promoted Listings, Instagram, Pinterest, and Email Newsletters. But Keywords should always be priority #1 as your main marketing strategy. 

But having good Keywords doesn't matter if no one likes your Etsy products.

So don't be offended if you have ugly Etsy products and you know it. Instead, I am instead going to offend myself by telling you a story about one of my biggest failures on Etsy. 


Here's my story about selling on Etsy

In 2010, I started my first Etsy Shop. I thought it was awesome that there was a website that focused on helping individuals sell creative, independent items online. 

I sold minimalist, very rectangular, geometric paintings, in various colors. I sold a grand total of 1 painting on Etsy. My first customer was a lady was from Florida, and she said the painting matched perfectly with her home decor. It was the blue painting shown below. I was so excited to get a Sale, and I figured that at least someone else would buy something too - eventually! 


I had about 8 paintings all together on my Etsy Shop, and in order to try to get a sale, I lowered my prices from about $400 USD to about $150 USD per painting and included free shipping. Little did I realize that it would cost $75 USD to ship the item. And then after subtracting the cost of the canvas, painting, packaging materials, and the roughly 8 hours it took to make the painting, I was basically making no money at all. 

I had no clue what I was doing, and after 6 months, I gave up. I had all these other paintings available for sale, like the green painting shown below. Personally, I really, really like this design. The problem is that no one else likes it and no one wants to spend their money on it. When I look at it now, it's probably because of the ugly green color. Or maybe people find it to be too boring looking. And no one uses green to decorate their home, especially in a modernist home. But I thought the design was cool, so shouldn't at least 1 other person like this design? 


The thing that I did not realize back in 2010, is that I am not creating things for myself on Etsy. Instead, I am creating things for other people. And they are paying me to make it for them. But what I kept doing was making things that only I liked, and I didn't try to figure out my own target customers and cater designs towards their interests. I should have continued to develop products based on my Blue Painting - but I didn't do that at all. I ignored what a customer bought, and continued on my own path. 

Your goal on Etsy is to sell things that other people want. But you're a creative person & you'll want to make things that you like, too. If you want to just be a business person, then you sell on Amazon or Ebay. But just like selling on other online platforms, your goal should always be to make money and sell things that other people want.

Six years later on Etsy, I finally created a modernist painting design that both I like and lots of other customers on Etsy like, too. Below is a black and white abstract painting I made and it has sold hundreds of times.


In terms of style, it's minimalist, it's a painting, and it is sort of like the designs I did in 2010. The difference is that people are willing to pay money for this design. And they can find me on Etsy through the use of good, clean, simple Keywords. 

Why do people like this design? I have no clue. I have some theories, though:

  • Modernist design is much, much more popular today than it was 6 years ago.
  • Black & White is so much easier to match to a home than blue or green is.
  • I've figured out a way to lower the cost of my designs.
  • I've also realized that it's hard to sell very large paintings, like my original 24" x 48" paintings because they are so expensive. Now, our best seller is a much more affordable 8" x 10" print. 
  • I've also learned a ton about Keywords in the last 6 years, and this helps me get my artwork in front of more people. 

So the whole point of this story is to tell you one main piece of advice: It doesn't matter what you like. It matters what your Etsy customers like!  And you need to find a way to create things that both you and other people enjoy at the same time. That way, you have fun doing it, and you get to make money at the same time. 

So learn from my mistakes. Get over yourself and what you like. And start making things that other people are going to enjoy. 

How To Interact With Your Etsy Customers

One thing I often forget to do is ask my Etsy Customers what they thought about their purchase.

I can easily come up with new ideas for new products or changes to make to my overall Etsy shop. But without talking directly to my customers, I'm always just guessing about what next step to take. 

I recently decided to make a new Customer Survey regarding our Etsy Shops' physical Premium Print artwork. I sent the survey out to about 50 customers. In total, 6 of them replied.

These 6 customers gave me feedback that was incredibly helpful. They told me they were looking for prints that were larger than what I currently offer, as well as more horizontally-oriented art options. Almost every single customer said the same thing. And for our Etsy shop, I have not offered those options at all. Every time I do a customer survey, I learn a ton of new things I never could have guessed on my own. 

What I recommend for your own Etsy Shop is that roughly every 3 months, you should send out some sort of Customer Survey to your previous customers. Even if you only have 10 Sales on your Etsy Shop, you can still try out Customer Surveys to learn what you need to work on in order to get more Etsy Sales. Even getting 1 reply back is better than nothing. This way, you are asking questions towards people who have actually spent money on your products - and that kind of information is extremely valuable. 

Here are 4 Tips that I have seen work best for Customer Surveys: 

  1. Offer an incentive for the survey, like a coupon code or a chance to win a free product from your Etsy Shop.
  2. Send it out to about 20 Customers and see if you get any responses back. If you don't get any responses, your offer may not be compelling, or your questions may be too long and too confusing. After your refine and improve your Survey, send a new one out to another 20 Customers. This way, you can learn to perfect your Survey, rather than just sending out 1 to everyone at once.
  3. Keep it to roughly 2-4 questions. The shorter it is, the more likely they will answer.
  4. Ask questions that are crucial to the issues you need to figure out. Don't ask things like "Did you like your order?" or "Would you recommend our shop to a friend?" Those kinds of questions are completely pointless. You want to ask things like "What was something you were looking for that you did not find on my Etsy Shop," or "What was the most difficult and frustrating experience you had with your Etsy Order." These are just examples. But you want to ask questions that really get to the heart of things that your Etsy Shop desperately needs in order to change and improve. 

Whenever I feel stuck, I always turn back to doing Customer Surveys. They are one of the best ways to get you motivated to fix the problems that your Etsy Shop is not addressing. 

If you're unsure how to send out customer surveys, the two easiest options are to simply write customers through Etsy Conversations or to set up a survey web page on a website such as SurveyMonkey.com. 

The 4 Best Techniques To Get Etsy Sales Through Customer Service

One thing I've learned over and over about Etsy is that real Etsy Customers want to hear from the real owner of an Etsy Shop. They don't want a canned or brief response. They want to hear from you, your personality, your ideas, your enthusiasm, and your help. 

I've learned this many times from personal experience. Sometimes when I'm busy and I have too much going on, I just copy and paste a response to a potential customers. But Etsy Customers can tell when this happens. They get the feeling that you just don't care about answering their question. And then they move on and find some other Etsy shop to buy from.

But when I take the time to ask Etsy Customers questions, what they're looking for, what they like, and what I can do to help them out, it almost always leads to the sale. Etsy Customers want to feel like they are part of your brand. So treat them like they're a friend in need of help. A lot of Etsy Customers will ask for advice, opinions, or ask about a custom order, or want clarification on your items. Always be willing to answer questions in a personalize and unique way each time.

So here are some new Customer Service techniques I've learned that I have not shared before:

1. Almost never write someone on Etsy a pre-written response. Always write something from scratch, and don't worry about it being perfect. Etsy Customers want to hear from the real you! Not a robot. Sometimes a couple spelling errors can be okay because feels more real. Exclamation points and smily faces are okay too :)

2. Ask the customer questions about their project or personal life. If you sell jewelry, ask your customer what they want to pair it with, or what they plan on wearing it with or what kind of outing they'll be wearing it at. Almost every customer on Etsy loves to share their story. And every Etsy Customer has a creative idea or reason why they're buying on Etsy. They want to find something totally unique they cannot find anywhere else. To them, it's a creative process, so listen to them and be a part of their creative process.

3. Expect to write about 3-4 messages with an Etsy customer before they make a purchase. If you try to sell to them right away after they get in touch with you, they'll be gone in a flash. Take your time and get to know them a little. But don't take forever to respond. The faster you can write a customer back, the more likely they'll buy. Just don't be pushy to make the sale right away.

4. When it seems like the customer is ready to buy, then you can ask for the sale. This part is really important, because sometimes customers want to be "invited" to purchase from you once you've answered all their questions. So make sure to say something like "Let me know if you have any other questions, or if you'd be interested in this item. I'd love to help out in any other way I can. Otherwise, whenever you are ready to order, I will always be here to answer any other questions!."  This way, you're asking for the sale without being super pushy. 

So learn from my mistakes. Don't be too pushy or too lenient when trying to talk with customers on Etsy. Instead, remember that Etsy is a personalized marketplace of creative and unique things, and that Etsy customers are very excited to buy from you!  So be excited with them!

How Should I Deal With A Bad 1-Star Review On Etsy?

Etsy Seller Questions:
What should I do when I've tried to resolve a customer complaint, but they still seem very angry with me about their order and are unhappy even when I try to resolve their issue? 

This is something that will definitely come up with your Etsy Shop at some point. Some people are unhappy, no matter how you try help and fix their problem. Let's say you try to fix the customer's issue, and for whatever reason you can still tell the customer is irritated, annoyed, or unhappy with their order. In these rare situations, I would recommend refunding and cancelling the transaction immediately. A very angry customer is going to threaten you with a poor review. It may have nothing to even do with your product - they simply may be in a bad mood.  So I highly recommend refunding and canceling a customer's order in this situation. At the very least, the customer will be happy that they got their money back and not further try to tear down your Etsy Shop.

If the customer already left a 1-star review, and they are not interested in talking with you and resolving their complaint, then I would still refund their order and cancel the transaction. Etsy says that a Review will stay on your Etsy Shop until the transaction is fully cancelled, which typically takes over 48 hours. But even though the review will stay up for over 48 hours, the best thing you can do for your Etsy Shop is to cancel the transaction, in hopes that the 1-Star review will go away. You don't want to leave any opportunity for any Etsy Customer to ruin your overall rating because they were angry and unreasonable. Even if it costs you money to refund someone and lose out on that income, a 5-Star Rating on your Etsy Shop is far more important.

I've only had to do this maybe up to 5 times in the last year, but there are definitely times when you can tell that a Customer is ready to take revenge against you, no matter how helpful you try to be. In those situations I just don't take the risk - I cancel and refund the order, to prevent a 1-star review from staying on our Etsy Shop. I recommend doing the same thing for your own Etsy Shop. 

Should I Accept Returns & Exchanges On Etsy?

An Etsy Seller Asked:

Based on your Etsy guides, I decided to change my shop policies to allow for returns, exchanges and cancellations. How often in your experience do customers ask for one? I was afraid to do this at first (previously it was "only if I'm at fault for something") because I wasn't sure if it would lead to me being taken advantage of, but that might be a baseless concern. 

We sell about 1000 listings per month, and even with our very generous return policy (which is: Free Returns & Exchanges No Matter What) we probably get 1or 2 refund requests per month. So mostly it's just a marketing tool to increase sales, because most people will not complain after they place their order. You want to eliminate the fear that if your customers are unhappy then they can't get the problem fixed. So by offering very generous return policies and exchanges, your customers will feel more free to purchase your items. Often times, even if the Customer is unhappy with their order, most people won't complain and will not ask for a refund or exchange their item. But in the event that they do, you do not want a 1-Star Review. It is better to give a refund than to get a 1-Star Review and then hurt your future sales. I'm unsure of the exact number for our Etsy Shop, but within the last 3 years, and out of 32,000 Sales, we have probably refunded at the very most 100 people.  That is a 0.3% return rate. So, as long as you sell decent products on Etsy, you should feel confident that most people will not return your items. 

This goes the same for Physical Products. We have sold thousands of products, and we have never had someone ask for a refund. The closest we came to this was that someone was unhappy with the way their item turned out, and gave us a bad review on Etsy. What I did was immediately send them a fixed item, without even talking to them. I simply shipped it in the mail with a $15 USD 1-Day Shipping option. The next day, the customer go their item, and immediately changed their review to 5 Stars. We took care of this customer, gave them a fixed item, and now we have a nearly perfect 5-Star rating for our Physical Items. So having generous Return & Exchange policies is absolutely crucial on Etsy. No one will want to come back as a repeat customer if you messed up and wont even own up to it. It's just better for your business to have a clear "Free Returns" policy.

What Should I Do When An Etsy Customers Doesn't Receive Their Item In The Mail?

Recently an Etsy Seller asked:

"What should I do when an Physical Item has not been received in the mail by a customer? What do you do if the customer doesn't want to pay for tracking but the item hasn't been delivered and should have arrived by now?"

First I check with the Post Office to see if there was an issue. If the Post Office lost it, then I send the customer the same item for free right away. Everyone these days is now more used to free shipping & free returns with companies like Amazon Prime. So to provide high quality customer service, you must be willing to reship items for free. That's why it is important to pay a little extra to ensure the item gets there quickly and on time, and with insurance.  You want to maintain a 5-star review, and it's super important to provide good customer service all the way until the customer receives the item and even beyond that. We've sold thousands of physical items on Etsy, and the only time we have had issues with getting the items to arrive on time and without being lost, is when we used the United States Postal Service. Their service is extremely unreliable and they have no accountability since they are a government-run business. So I highly recommend using a slightly more expensive, private-company alternative, like FedEx or UPS. I'm unsure how other companies work outside of the United States, but do your homework on the best shipping company available. Usually, once an item leaves the U.S. it is then passed on to another company within the new country it is being sent to. 


"How do I deal with an angry customer that is not happy with their order once they receive it in the mail?"

For physical items, we have had a handful of unhappy customers. Even though it costs us extra money to fix the problems, it is absolutely crucial to do so in order to maintain a 5-Star rating on your Etsy Shop. What we do is either offer a refund, or reship the item and fix the issue, or give them a 2nd item for free. And we fix the issue as quickly as possible Only about 1% of customers complain about items. And most of the time, they do not want a refund, they want the problem fixed. Sometimes, when the customers complains, or leaves a 1-star review, the customer won't even get back to you because they are too upset. What we do in this case is overnight ship a fixed item to them, even if they don't say anything. Almost always, the customer is so surprised and so happy, that they change their review to a 5-Star review almost immediately. So don't wait to hear back from the customer on "Why" they were unhappy with their order. Just fix it ASAP. This is crucial to continue to get more sales on Etsy, no matter what you sell.