Podcast Episode 11: 7 Fears Every Successful Etsy Seller Must OvercomeOct 14, 2021
If you are like so many other new Etsy shop owners (or business owners period)--- you probably experience some fears around the launch or growth of your small business.
I hear again and again from my coaching clients about their fear of being judged by family or friends or criticized by a customer or --- worst of all--- never selling a single thing from their Etsy shop.
I have been there, too, dear listener. In fact------ before I ever started my Etsy shop--I actually launched my sign shop through my own website for a few months--- and it was the reality of the crickets chirping so loudly (and the sales being so few)—that I eventually explored Etsy as a possibility for making real sales.
I had decent products and received good feedback. I sold a few to some friends—and then some friends of friends--- but back then I had no idea how to get my products from my personal website in front of the right customers. And unfortunately the truth is--- just because you build it, doesn’t mean they’ll come!
I wasn’t making regular sales and I was terrified that the whole thing would be just a big flop. Migrating to Etsy was literally birthed out of a fear of failure.
Once I did get started on Etsy and began to make some sales--- a whole new batch of fears set in: I would lovingly paint my signs and thoughtfully wrap them--- and carefully box them—and then literally say a little prayer that they wouldn’t break on the way and the customer wouldn’t hate it. LOL
Whenever I saw the “your got a new review” notification on my phone, I would suck in a little air and hold my breath as I waited for my fate to load. (Let’s be honest, I still do this a baby bit… lol)
It might all sound a little embellished (not extremely) or dramatic—but putting your work and your creativity and your heart on the line can feel like a VERY big, scary deal.
And today I want to focus on meeting you in that place.
So let’s talk about it…. There are 7 common fears that new Etsy sellers often mention--- so let’s go through them one by one and talk about how we can overcome them.
1) What if I never make any sales?
This is the biggie isn’t it? Like, the one we all are most likely to grapple with. Well, let’s go big or go home. This is exactly where I think we should start.
Seriously… WHAT IF you never make any sales on Etsy?
I reallllly empathize with this one because it was very much my reality when I tried to sell from my own site first without any previous experience.
And I’ll let you in on a little secret----- it never 100% goes away! Even experienced business owners with years and years of success still have this question creep into our thoughts sometimes! Seriously! You don’t just one day “arrive” and never have any fear anymore.
When I come back from a long vacation (I take months off sometimes) I wonder if the trends or the algorithm changed too much for me to re-enter.
When I launch a new product, I sit with anticipation (sometimes for several weeks) wondering if it will sell. (Spoiler alert--- sometimes it doesn’t!)
But the difference between the new or prospective Etsy seller and that of an experienced business owner is often one key mindset:
The key is deciding that you aren’t going to quit. Even if you don’t sell anything right away. Even if it takes a while to figure out. Even if you have to pivot and change processes, prices, design, or maybe the product altogether.
The true entrepreneur is not put off by this process thinking it’s too hard or I can’t recover from this. This is where you have to grow to--- where it’s not catastrophic to not have immediate sales, but you can be patient and curious and figure it out with some time, research, and effort.
Like Thomas Edison and his thousands of non-working light bulbs--- the experienced business owner will chalk it up to experience--- “I now know 999 ways to ‘not’ conduct electricity”—and keep testing, tweaking, learning, and trying.
2) What if a customer gets angry or even leaves a bad review?
I know… this is another one our worst fears, isn’t it? And odds are—at some point it will actually happen. I’ve experienced both more than once.
This is actually the subject of a podcast I’m getting ready to record for you guys--- all about how to deal with angry customers! So once it’s live—I will link it for you in the show notes and it will handle more of the “what should you do” aspect.
For now, let’s focus on the fear piece….
When I was young, I struggled with a lot of fear around what-ifs. What if the house catches on fire? What if a burglar breaks in? What if I get sick at school?
These kinds of thoughts plagued me to the point where I would develop detailed contingency plans in my head with the exact steps I would take if one of these awful things happened. Once I had a plan, I could relax a bit.
While spinning our wheels about things that “might” but probably won’t happen is usually a waste of time and energy, a contingency plan for things that absolutely will happen can help our brains relax and get back to the things we need and want to do with our day.
(And side note—if you want to expand your creativity—you have to lower your inner stress and create space for ideas to cultivate and flow!)
Here are some ways to plan for hard feedback from a customer:
1) Make sure your product is something you’re proud of from the get-go and if it isn’t, get it there before you list it for sale. That way, if you come against criticism, you can deal with it from a customer service perspective rather than emotionally.
2) A lot of problems and complaints can be prevented by having really thorough photos and item descriptions. So make sure your listing is complete and answer as many potential questions as you can proactively.
3) Inspect each product before it ships. I like to look each piece over just before I wrap it and touch up anything that’s imperfect. I always think to myself—is this piece a high enough quality that I would feel proud to give it to my Pastor? Or my husband’s boss? Or a business leader I really respect?
4) When hard feedback comes, don’t respond right away. (Or--- respond using a template you crafted ahead of time.) The point is, let your emotions settle so you can respond professionally rather than emotionally.
5) When you do respond, respond with empathy! Put yourself in your customer’s shoes. I know you may not feel like it—but this is how you grow a hugely successful business! When customers feel cared for, taken care of, and connected with you—they leave great reviews, they come shop again, and they tell their friends.
(Just one more plug---- I’m going to talk about exactly how to respond, including the words I suggest you use--- in a ton more detail in the upcoming episode “How to deal with angry customers”—so watch for that!)
6) One review isn’t going to make or break you. That’s the GREAT news. It’s the consistency of showing up over and over again with a great product, and great customer service that will build you a successful business.
So as you consider this fear of angry customers and bad reviews--- just remember you’ll get more good than bad. There’s always a bad apple in the bunch. And one negative review cannot determine your future success. You can keep going, and you got this!
3) I don’t have enough time….
Completely fair. And depending on your actual goals, this could be a roadblock for you.
If you are a person that already has a jam-packed schedule, you need to consider an Etsy shop very carefully. It will require some consistent time to build.
On the other hand--- if building an Etsy shop would:
-Give you a creative outlet that reduced stress in your life OR
-Building towards this new goal would help make your life better down the road…
Then it’s probably worth the effort of finding the time to build towards.
What I don’t want for you is one more thing on your plate that kills your joy, steals time from your loved ones, and really doesn’t get you closer to your bigger purpose and goals.
So what kind of time will it really take to build an Etsy shop?
Well, most people are starting very part time and that gives you a LOT of control. One way you can manage this is to make your product in advance and just sell out of inventory. That way, once it’s gone, it’s gone and you’re not on a timeline trying to serve a waiting customer with a pending order. Then you can just make more once your schedule allows.
Another way to manage it is using vacation mode. For those who may be unfamiliar, Etsy has a feature in your shop settings where you can put your shop on Vacation mode which keeps your shop active, but makes it so people can’t order. It’s the BEST. (A lot of people ask if using it hurts your shop--- I personally use it and think it’s worth it—but you can learn a lot more about what to expect from episode 3 of my podcast “Will using vacation mode hurt my shop?” I’ll link it down in the shownotes.)
The key to building towards your Etsy goals is to work at it consistently. That might just be 1-2 hours a week—and that can work—you just need to make sure it’s 1-2 hours EVERY week. Not 4 hours one week, one hour the next week, 2 weeks off, then a 6 hour crunch week…. This might work in the beginning for a bit, but it’s not going to build a long term asset for you.
Most people over-estimate what they can accomplish in 3-6-9 months, but totally under-estimate what they can do in 2-3 years.
Entrepreneurship is a long game. More than being able to dump tons of hours into your business up front (assuming you’re part time) it’s the consistent effort over the course of months and years that will get you to your destination. Think of a fitness goal or financial goal. Most of the time, you can’t get there in just a few weeks—it’s going to be the small decisions made consistently over time that will win.
4) I’m not creative enough…
ME NEITHER. Seriously. If there was ever a subject where I have regular imposter syndrome, it’s this one right here.
You don’t actually have to be that creative to be successful on Etsy. You just need to pat attention to the trends.
In fact—being super creative and coming up with something no one is shopping for can be super demotivating! Etsy is a search engine marketplace, so unless you’re already famous and have a bunch of people who want to buy anything you create, it’s best to stick with what’s already trending and put your own creative spin on it.
After that, making your product is less creative and more about practicing the same skill over and over and over again.
Think about my sign shop---- after making over 3000 signs, I’m not really being creative anymore—it’s a bit more like an assembly line! Hahaha! And truth be told, you’ll feel very similarly after making 10-20 of a particular product. You’ll get the hang of it.
For that matter, making a handmade product can include tools, printers, decals, digital products. You don’t have to be able to free hand paint a realistic penguin or hand sew organic dresses to do this.
Just try a few things. You’ll be surprised at how quickly you start to develop a process and can seamlessly recreate your products. You just have to roll up your sleeves and start.
If you are a person like me who needs to work on how you manage your time, there is an AWESOME book by Carey (New-Hoff) Nieuwhof called “At Your Best” that I listened to recently—and wow—it’s packed with solid stuff. I’ll link that below in our shownotes.
5) What if my family or friends judge me or laugh at me?
I hear this one a lot more than I expected. It seems like more people face this kind of fear as they start to build their own business than don’t—which is SO SAD.
If this has been your experience—first of all—I’m so sorry. It’s hard enough taking a risk like starting a business or sharing your artwork-- but when the people you need to be in your corner aren’t supportive, it can feel devastating.
You know what though? I think you should do it anyway.
I once heard this quote and I still think about it all the time:
“Someone else’s opinion about me is none of my business”
Seriously. I mean, I’m the last person to advocate disconnection in otherwise healthy significant relationships and I definitely think you and a spouse need to reach an understanding of some sort before you spend your family’s time and money on a business project.
But especially with people who don’t live with you or never support you and are NOT providing any kind of helpful, constructive feedback? Their opinion is none of your business. It’s their brain space, their problem, and your best revenge is to prove ‘em wrong. Lolllll
My rule of thumb is this:
I only take advice from someone who has what I want.
If you have a great marriage---- I’m 100% interested in your thoughts on marriage.
Your kids are connected to you, thriving, and behave respectfully? Share all the parenting dish you got.
Your business is killing the game? What do you want in your coffee—because I’m buying us some and I want your advice.
But if someone is trying to judge me or give me advice in an area of life that they haven’t mastered (let’s be honest--- it’s often a freakin’ trainwreck)--- then I’m sorry but I love you. I see value in you. I’m not rejecting you as a person, but I’m gonna stay in my lane and you are NOT going to affect my decisions OR drain my energy. In fact, I am so sorry—but I have somewhere I need to be in about 15 minutes, so I need to head out! Big hug! BYE!
If you know in advance that someone is going to be a downer about your goals, who’s to say they need to know about them? I think you do your thing and your success came come out before they have a chance to deflate you.
Again with the exception of marriage--- which I think needs to be held precious. My husband and I did an episode together where we talked through how we run our shop together and still like each other (episode #6 and as always I’ll link it below). You really need to get your marriage healthy first and foremost and we share a lot about how we did that. Everything else will flow out of the health of your marriage and family and home.
You know—with these fears of being judged…. Sometimes it’s a question of ---- what is more scary? Facing this fear, or living the rest of my life and never going for it because someone might judge me.
If you really struggle to overcome this to the point that you feel kind of frozen, boy do I understand. But I still want to tell you that your work, your ideas, and your purpose need to be shared with the world. I’d encourage you to work through this with some journaling, some personal growth reading (a great book for actually this entire podcast is “Fear is not the Boss of You” by Jennifer Allwood and I’ll link it in the shownotes), or maybe find a great counselor that can help you break through.
This podcast is brought to you by Restoring Relationships.
6) Sharing my art feels way too personal…
As a Etsy coach and business consultant, I personally haven’t heard this one too much yet, but in an article published by Etsy a few years ago, this was listed as a common fear. (I’ve linked the article in the shownotes for anyone who might like to dive deeper in to this whole subject of fears!)
You know, a lot of times the artist in us is connected to the child in us—so naturally it would be more sensitive and raw. Ultimately I think the way this fear will manifest can vary from person to person.
First of all--- if you’re new to selling your creations, pick something lower stakes to start with. It’s better to ease into selling pieces that are intensely personal. Find a way to take your artistic skills and create something to sell that feels safer.
For some, it might feel like it’s hard to part with their creations--- in which case it helps to keep a few of your most special pieces for just you.
Also--- if you can create multiple copies it takes the intensity down—when you know you can duplicate something, parting ways is easier. It will feel like lower stakes.
Another person might feel like if their piece was criticized it would be extremely painful and might make it hard for them to keep creating or even damage a part of their identity.
I get it--- and you definitely may want to weigh this out and decide if you’re ready for this step of putting your work out there. I personally hope you will-- because our souls and our art were designed to be shared and expressed. If you keep all that light to yourself, the world will remain incomplete. We need you and your work! So I hope you decide it’s worth the risk.
And here’s the good news about Etsy. More than likely if someone sees your product in the feed and doesn’t love it, they’ll just keep on scrolling. They’re not going to throw shade the way they might on Tiktok or Instagram.
7) What if someone steals my work?
The truth is this does happen and it helps to have a plan in place in the event that it does.
I will add though, that it happens when you sell stuff from your own website too! Etsy does put your work in front of more eyeballs—which has pros and cons. But the minute the world gets excited about buying something you created, other people will be waiting to try and steal it. It’s just an unfortunate part of the game. The point is—don’t let the Etsy platform in particular deter you. It happens everywhere and it might help to have the Etsy corporate team in your corner.
Etsy published a great article with steps to take when you think you’ve been copied—and I’ll put that in the shownotes for you to reference if you need it!
I’m not an attorney and this isn’t legal advice, but just to get you started—here are some things you can do:
-Start by sending a DM and/or email nicely asking them to take down the infringing listings
-If there’s no response, you can report them to Etsy or send a cease and desist letter with the help of an attorney
Just as a heads up--- when your work isn’t formally copyrighted, it can be hard to prove copyright infringement. So if something is super precious, unique, or needs extra protection, you may want to take those legal steps first before you start selling them on Etsy.
I personally don’t worry about copyright issues for my Etsy shop. It hasn’t been a problem for me so far and I really strive to keep an abundance mentality and avoid scarcity. Take it or leave it, but my attitude is that God (or the universe if you prefer it) will work out the details and knows the truth.
Ideally in business (and it’s been true for me) you pivot often enough that even if someone copies you, they can’t really keep up. Just keep moving through your own flow of genius, take actions when you need to, and otherwise stay in your own lane. Excellence will win out in the end.
Well, what do you think? We covered A LOT today and I hope it was super helpful to you! I’d love to hear from you if there are other fears that you face in business.
And bottom line--- I sure hope you take the plunge. I’m rooting for you! We need your particular genius out here in this crazy world.
I’ll talk to you next week!
Do you ever sense the fear of failure creeping into your thoughts as you imagine the launch or growth of your Etsy shop? Today we’re diving in the deep end to talk about the most common fears that Etsy sellers face and how to conquer them.
**“How to Sell Your Stuff on Etsy” is not affiliated with or endorsed by Etsy.com
STUFF I MENTIONED:
Book: “Everything is Figuroutable” by Marie Forleo
Podcast Episode: “How to deal with angry customers”: https://www.howtosellyourstuff.com/blog/angry-customers-bad-reviews-on-etsy
Episode 3 of my podcast “Will using vacation mode hurt my shop?”
Book about time-management: “At Your Best” by Carey Nieuwhof
Podcast Episode #6: “How to run your Etsy shop with your spouse (and still like each other)”
Book: “Fear is not the Boss of You” by Jennifer Allwood
Etsy article about common fears! Many are different from the ones we discussed: https://www.etsy.com/seller-handbook/article/how-to-conquer-6-common-business-fears/22507028170
Etsy article: I think I’ve been copied
*Some of the links above are affiliate links which means I’ll receive a commission if you purchase through my link, at no extra cost to you. You can see my affiliate disclosure here: https://www.howtosellyourstuff.com/affiliate-disclosure
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HOW TO SELL YOUR STUFF SHOWNOTES: https://www.howtosellyourstuff.com/blog/7-common-etsy-seller-fears
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