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.


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