7 years on Etsy – Back from the Dark Times

So… As the end of 2012 approached, a year and a half of having relatively invisible listings in my Etsy shop had resulted in a year of steadily declining sales. Each month, I was losing an amount of $$ in sales that I suspect many Etsy sellers would be happy to make in their shop each month. At the rate things were going, if I did not figure out how to be relevant in searches, I expected to be at $0 in sales by April of this year.

I read everything I could about how to make listings relevant. I took what limited understanding I had of what I read and tried to implement what I was learning. At the same time, efforts that I started making over a year and a half before were beginning to produce orders on my standalone website, shop.johnwgolden.com. I was also putting a lot of effort into trying to promote my Etsy shop out of the slide it was in. Both of those things made it challenging to really focus on correcting the deficiencies of which my Etsy listings were full. My efforts to revive the Etsy shop were failing.

Perhaps a little backstory is necessary to understand what my Etsy shop was to me:

I found out about Etsy when it first started, was very interested but thought I should wait and see what the site would become. About a year later, I opened a shop, put a few listings up and went back to what I was doing before.

6 months and 3 sales later, I decided I should put more effort into my sales, so I began to educate myself on how selling on Etsy worked. At that time, there was little info about how to make those efforts effective. Suffice to say, I picked up techniques shared by other sellers, developed quite a few on my own (which I then shared) and began to see results that in short order made it possible to exit my career as a broadcast designer and illustrator and sell my work on Etsy full-time.

So, in 2006, Etsy made it possible for me to be where I am today and it was was no small thing that my Etsy shop in 2012 was wasting away. I had replaced a good part of the lost income with sales from other sources, but I had put so much work into developing my Etsy shop, was still putting at least 40 hours a week into running it and still held the shop dear in my heart, so I was feeling the loss on many levels.

Nothing I did regarding relevancy worked. I tried adding new work. I did all the things I used to be able to do to generate sales. Nothing would stop the slide.

I was pretty bitter. Mostly towards Etsy. They had significantly changed something that was working just fine for sellers like me. They had killed something that was important to me.

And in all this bitterness, I struggled to understand what Etsy was telling sellers about how to be relevant. I struggled to understand what other sellers were sharing about how to be relevant. And I continued to fail at stopping the demise of my Etsy shop. On top of the bitterness, there was great uncertainty that relevancy was even the problem. My listing views had dropped 50%, so it could have just been people were not choosing to view my listings. There were now millions of other listings to look at instead. Maybe people weren’t spending money like they used to.

Through all this time of bitterness and confusion, and a scramble to build a safety net (in the form of my stand-alone website – which I should have done from the get-go in 2006) I held to one stubborn belief. I could fix the problem, and when I did, if I could get my work in front of enough people again, it would connect with people and they would buy it.

I continued to attempt to educate myself about how Etsy handles relevancy and search results and after the worst holiday sales season since my first year on Etsy, I looked at the writing on the wall (my shop stats). It looked grim. There was very little to be positive about. 4 months to the end of my Etsy shop.


I cannot look back now and pinpoint the exact bit of shared information it was. It just know it happened sometime after the last 2012 holiday package shipped. Sales are naturally slow after the shipping deadlines for the holiday season pass. I had time to fully focus on more efforts to turn my Etsy shop around. I had accepted the fact that going forward, my best chances to continue supporting myself and family with my work would be to take the money I was spending on Etsy and put it towards promoting my own website. But it was hard to just let my old shop go.

Some Etsy shopkeeper out there shared this tiny bit of knowledge that found its way in front of me at just the right time. Whatever it was they said, I understood it and it clicked. It was nowhere near the whole picture, but it was just enough knowledge to be dangerous. And it was just enough knowledge for me to realize something that was probably more important for me to be able to undertake the work that was necessary to right the ship.

The lingering problem was not that Etsy had changed. The problem was that I failed to understand how to change my listings to make my store viable under the new way of doing things. I had not felt I had the available time to get my head around the changes as they began to occur. The problem was that even though I made many efforts to do so, I did not get it. I was not going to get it until that very moment that someone shared some small thing in a way that I could get it. That year-and-a-half was necessary for me to understand relevancy and how to optimize my shop for it. That was not Etsy’s fault. Realizing my complicity in my situation made the bitterness disappear, and it gave me renewed energy for the work ahead.

to be continued…

Art for Kids Room Stay Positive Print 6 in x 10 in by johnwgolden.


7 Years and 13,428 sales later, Part Two – Managing Your Own Expectations

I mentioned in Part One of this series that I used to frequently share my knowledge of how to make a go of it on Etsy. I also mentioned that I struggled for about a year and a half with keeping my Etsy shop successful after changes on Etsy made my knowledge there somewhat obsolete. And with not yet understanding how to be visible and successful on the new Etsy, I could not very well help others do well on the site.

Fortunately, I had launched shop.johnwgolden.com and began to get traffic and sales there and I began to participate in some flash sales on large flash sale sites, so I was plenty busy. But, my Etsy shop was dying, and in the latter part of 2012, appeared to be headed to its imminent doom within a few months. The order volume from other sources was enough to keep me occupied (and running a tad behind on shipping) and presented a real challenge for me. I needed to be focused on understanding how to revive my Etsy store. More on how I turned things around there later, as this post is supposed to be more about the mindset one must have to live the risky life of a working artist. I just wanted you to know where I come from now in helping others who are taking the same risks and opportunities I have taken so they can live off their talent (or those who are about to take those risks).

“You are living in La La Land”

Any pre-2006 reasonable young adult might be forgiven for thinking that there is only one path to responsible adulthood, and that it involves a good-paying stable job. That may have been true before the economy got rough, but now it is not news when someone takes an alternate path to success. So many people have done that in the face of no other alternative. And they are to be commended. It is one thing to choose to gradually phase out of one career and in to another (As I did), and quite another to completely drop one path to embark on another (either by choice or by circumstance).

One thing that I believe is common to succeeding in any situation that either invites adversity by choice (my situation or that of one who quits their day job for a life of making stuff) or foists adversity upon one unexpectedly (like a job loss that necessitates turning to one’s talents for income) is that one has to believe that the new path will be a successful one.

It’s not an unwavering belief. It will waver quite a bit, and it will be challenged daily. But one must convince one’s self repeatedly that it will all be worth it and one has what it takes to make their own business a success. You might call it living in denial or living in La La Land. And while setting up a full-time homestead in La La Land is not necessarily desirable, it has certainly helped me to return there often when the challenges and uncertainty of this type of path seem overwhelming.

It’s faith. Either in one’s self or one’s higher power or the power of an idea. Believing that one will make it and is capable of making it and that almost every risk one takes will pay off. For artists in particular, it is the belief that there are new things to be done, new ways of seeing and that the idea of “There is nothing new under the sun” is a flawed and limiting idea. It’s belief that there is a solution for every problem or challenge and that if you can embrace that belief, you will find that solution.

It’s pretty much what we all do in meeting the everyday challenges of each of our lives. Depending on one’s personal situation though, one may have to embrace that belief more repeatedly  when starting a new path.

So what about managing expectations? It’s in the title of the post, after all. It’s prudent to keep a very sensible approach to risk-taking. But I did not get where I am by letting every single thing that I could imagine could go wrong dominate my path (and I am the type to imagine every possible outcome to a situation good or bad). Nor did many other people who took off down paths they could never have imagined prior to embarking. So, while it is important to anticipate pitfalls and have contingencies for the failure of an idea, it is more important to keep one’s expectations high and one’s dreams big.

The expectations one starts out with may be higher than those they have a year in. It’s natural to adjust. Some days my expectations are beaten down by reality. But I try to pump them back up as soon as I can, and keep them from ever getting so low that I can’t revive them. Let them be battered and let people tell you you can’t succeed. You know better.

Dream Big in Blue Print Quote Poster 10.8 in x 18 by johnwgolden.

7 Years and 13,428 sales later, Part One – Getting Away From It


Coming up on 7 years on Etsy at the end of July. Time flies. There comes a point where one stops reflecting so much, but it seems appropriate as another Etsyversary approaches. Thought maybe I would share some little snippets of, er, wisdom or whatnot.

“Getting away from it”

Summer seems to always bring with it (for me, anyway) an urge to start taking breaks from the round the clock merry-go-round that I am fortunate to call an online art business. If one wants to put in 16-hour days, it is often easy to find plenty to keep you busy.

I have found that it is important to regularly (as possible) step back and let the work one is doing carry itself for a bit. All that focus on getting one’s work out to the masses wears one down. I have also found that the moment I turn my attention elsewhere is when some of the things I have been doing to keep the business alive and growing often kick in. As much as it may feel like constant prodding of one’s facebook, blog and online sales outlets will eventually generate sales, I find that a break from all that helps me maintain some enthusiasm for the process. Maybe on some level, it reinforces one’s confidence that all the work will someday pay off.

Since I have not had more than a few days of break time since launching my Etsy store almost 7 years ago, in about 3 weeks, I am going to take a month off. I’ll keep the shop open as long as possible before putting it in vacation mode. I am considering putting it back in live mode a week or two before my return though I am getting a lot of lobbying from the family to have a completely business free vacation 🙂 That would be nice, but something tells me I’ll want to stir the pot from time to time and make sure the work is, in fact, carrying itself.

So… Today’s wisdom and all that – Work hard. But sometimes don’t. Allow your work to pay off from time to time by stepping back and putting your attention elsewhere.

Freshwater Fish Art Series Medium Art Block Brook by johnwgolden.

Vintage Music Instrument Collage Art Box Set


If papa was a rolling stone, these instrument blocks will make a great Father’ Day Gift for him.

I have talked about these here before, but a little history – About 20+ years ago I found a cool old dictionary and waited for it to enter the public domain before making these fun images of vintage instruments. I found an old piece of water-stained masonite, and that became the background for this series.

Oh yeah, just 12 days top order if you want them for Father’s Day

Vintage Music Instrument Print Collage Art Box Set by johnwgolden.

This artistic shut-in’s going wandering






Just wanted to start putting the word out that for about 2-3 weeks this summer, My Etsy shop will be on vacation, and I will be too.

This is the first extended vacation since opening the shop 7 years ago, and we have a once in a lifetime opportunity to visit far off places with my folks and sister, with my entire clan in tow.

Juts wanting you to know if you’re wanting anything from the shop, you have about 4 weeks to order, or risk having to wait up to 6 weeks to get your order.

And don’t forget Father’s Day 🙂

Art Prints Art Blocks Art for Kids & Wall Decor by johnwgolden.

22 days to order Father’s Day Gifts, and then… a vacation

6.5″ x 18″ Saltwater Fish Block. Also available in Freshwater.

There are only 22 days left to order for Father’s Day delivery. Place orders by June 9th for delivery by Dad’s big day.

Around June 13th, I will be placing the Etsy shop in vacation mode for a couple of weeks. In early July, the shop will be back but orders will not start shipping until the third week of July. Orders placed by June 13th will ship by the 16th.