First off, before anyone gets their underpants bunched over anything regarding Etsy, let me remind you of one very poignant fact that people tend to take for granted—Etsy is a for profit company—Stop treating them as anything but that. Once you get real with this fact, you’ll better understand why they do what they do.  

We’ll touch on this more in a moment, but I wanted to get it out of the way so it’s not a sticking point from the start.

About this time last year, I wrote one of my most controversial posts to date—15 Etsy Shops That are Killing it With Sales. At the top of that substantial list is a shop called Three Bird Nest, and the lady who runs it is still kicking ass and taking names. Doing the simple math with very conservative numbers, this lady and her team have done over $2 million in sales over the past two years.

The sheer volume of work going out of that shop is mind blowing, especially if you take in that she’s working with a very small team of people to do it…or so she says. If you go back through the comments of my original post, you’ll see there are quite a few naysayers who think she’s a cheat, using manufacturing techniques to produce her work, which very well may be the case. However, it’s not the real story.

These naysayers would have you believe she doesn’t belong on my list. They would have you think that Etsy is strictly for handmade crafters, which may have been true many years ago, but hasn’t been the case for awhile. In fact, Etsy has now openly embraced using manufacturing processes in your work as long as you identify yourself and apply for manufacturer status. Again, though, this misses the point.

My post was not 15 best handmade makers on Etsy. No, it was 15 people who are sales machines on Etsy. I don’t really give a damn who the best crafters are on Etsy, and you shouldn’t either. In fact, if any other thoughts beyond how to make more sales for shop flood your mind, then you’re thinking wrong.

Your limiting beliefs about what is keeping you from being successful on Etsy is what is keeping you from being successful on Etsy. Complain all you want about the changes that Etsy makes, but remember that the changes didn’t just happen to you–they happen to everyone, and the sellers who were killing it before the changes are still killing it now. Why do you think that is? Here’s a hint:

It has little or NOTHING to do with Etsy!

Ok, so there is probably some effect on your shop when the algorithm changes, and Etsy isn’t very forthcoming about how their search works, your shop can take a hit, but lets shed some light on this.

When it comes to them changing the algorithm, they do so for the benefit of the buyers, NOT the sellers. If you feel it’s their obligation to serve you first, please get over yourself. The buyer is the most important entity in this equation, always has been and always will be.

Second, they don’t tell you how the search works because if they did, sellers would try to game the system. That’s what’s really happening here—sellers are pissed because they were gaming the system before and now the playing field is a bit more level because the gaming doesn’t work as well as it did before.

As far as the “manufacturing” adjustments, please stop obsessing over it. If we’re completely honest with ourselves, this stuff was happening long before Etsy made the new decree. They tried to fight it, but shutting down shops for alleged manufacturing can be a sticky situation.

Shops get shut down all the time for breaking the Terms of Use, some for the right reasons, and some by mistake. I can only imagine how tough it must be for Etsy to make these judgement calls when all they have to go by is the stuff they see on the shop and the word of the seller. Thousands of shops get reported daily for “misuse”, and not always for the best reasons. Sometimes a competitor will complain about a shop because they want to see if they can get a leg up. How would you like to be the one that had to make those judgement calls?

If you come through any of Etsy’s shop success posts on the blog or in the Etsy forum, there is pretty much everything you need to know about how to best use the site without getting Etsy-Whacked every time they make a change. It basically goes like this:

  1. Make a quality product
  2. Be unique—avoid being cliché
  3. Take high-quality photos that are complimentary to your product
  4. Provide a title that is descriptive and helps buyers find you
  5. Give a thorough description that tells a story about your product beyond the features
  6. Use tags wisely (think like a buyer)
  7. Charge a fair price to both you and the buyer (likely the most difficult of all these)
  8. Join a team and be active
  9. Use your networks outside Etsy to drive people to your shop
  10. Think of Etsy as a tool, not a final solution
  11. Treat customers with respect and give excellent service, beginning to end
  12. Focus your marketing efforts or die
  13. Wash–rinse–repeat

That is your success formula. Everything else is bullshit.

I’m sorry if I’m coming off as an Etsy apologist, but there are so many people complaining about the changes to how Etsy does their business, it drives me absolutely bonkers. As I said in the beginning, Etsy is a for profit company. Their goal is to make money, and they are going to do what serves their benefit most, just like you and your business.

If you don’t like how Etsy runs their business, they aren’t stopping you from leaving. By all means, run off to Artfire or any one of the many alternatives. The problems you have with Etsy will be the same, only more pronounced because you’ll be getting far less traffic to your shop. On the other hand, if you have been doing your due diligence with marketing, promotion, merchandising and service, you fill find your success on any site, despite the drop in traffic, but that means you have to do work, doesn’t it?

That’s really the key aspect here—people bitch and moan about Etsy making changes, but they rarely leave because Etsy still drives more traffic to their shop than any other option. Etsy sellers don’t want to do the hard work and be the source of their own web traffic. They want to ride Etsy’s coattails, but still be able to set the terms. Sorry folks, it doesn’t work that way anymore.

Etsy is getting really close to the 1 million active seller mark. Yes, you have a shit-ton of competition, but Etsy also has over 30 million members, so you have so many more opportunities to sell your work, and sell big if you are just willing to put the work in. Want to make 2014 the year your shop blows up? Start with these ideas:

Raise Your Prices

I would say that 90% of all sellers on Etsy are not charging enough for their work. Some would say they charge what the market will bear, but I believe that’s a load of crap. Some people buy their clothes at Bloomingdales, and some people buy their clothes at Walmart. Do you think Bloomies gives a damn about people who shop at Walmart? Not one iota! They charge what they charge, and people buy their stuff at the higher price willingly.

Become a Luxury

Sure, in a bad economy, people stop buying luxury items as much, but the alternative to luxury is necessity, and I hate to break it to you, but very, very little sold on Etsy would be considered a necessity. So, if you’re not a necessity,  you’re a commodity—a luxury. Back to the Bloomingdales reference, if you’re going to be a luxury, shouldn’t you start acting like it so you can get paid as such?

Stop Bitching!

So many complainers—it’s no wonder so many shops end up failing. They spend so much time complaining, they forget to do the work that matters. We’ve all heard the idiom, one bad apple ruins the whole bunch. If you’ve spent any time in the Etsy forums, you know exactly what I mean. I used to go their often for support, questions and community, but I grew tired of the constant blather from people who were looking for any one of a number of reasons to complain about etsy, lambast customers, and knock down other sellers. It’s like Lord of the Flies in there sometimes, and I couldn’t take it anymore.

You’re only hurting yourself with your bad juju. Start today with a new outlook on your business, try a positive approach, and forget about all the BS you worried about before. Instead, focus on the positive, surround yourself with good people, and embrace the fundamentals I talked about above, and you’ll find success. I promise you, it will happen.

You’re a Seller—Act Like It

So many Etsy folks want to call themselves makers, crafters, artists, and designers, but until you latch onto the moniker of Seller, you’re going to wallow in the mirk of obscurity. Want to know what the successful shops are doing better than you? They realized some time ago that their goal was not just to make stuff, but to sell stuff. This goes far beyond the idea of posting up a new item and waiting for the buyers.

When I coach some people on how to improve their shops, often I get pushback on the idea that they need to focus on the sales and marketing. Some people don’t like the idea of selling to their network of friends on Facebook, Twitter and other networks. They feel it compromises their integrity. You don’t want to promote yourself? Fine, but you don’t get to complain about your lackluster sales numbers. You’re a maker who (hopefully) makes a quality product, and until you get real with the idea that you’re also a seller, and that means marketing and promotion; your shop will not be realizing it full potential. That brings me to the final thought.

Do the Work

Etsy is a means to end, but they never intended to be your salvation. Yeah, there was a boon for awhile, people selling lots of product in a veritable craft gold rush, but those times are long since over. Opportunity still exists, but it requires you pick up a hammer and get to work breaking rocks. Do good work, post the best possible version in your shop, and then share the hell out of it all over the place.

You’ve spent a lot of time and energy creating good, solid products that people will want to buy if they just get a chance to see it. You deserve a moment in the sun for your efforts. If you’re doing good work, take pride in it and be ok with sharing. Promoting doesn’t have to feel slimy if you do it right, and you come at it from an honest place.

These ideas are simple, but the work is never easy. Not everyone is going to buy, but some will, and based on percentages, the more work you put in, the higher that percentage will be.

Stop focusing on the changes that occur within Etsy. Focus instead on how you can improve your process and the changes will have little effect on your business.