Are You in Business or Just Playing Games?

inbusinessorplayinggames etsypreneur

Here’s a comment that came in recently on one of our “How-To” business blog posts:

Getting a sale on etsy is like winning the lottery. I’m thinking of closing my shop as its a waste of time and money. I just want one sale. Just to know that it works. Etsy should help with advertising. I don’t understand how to make a treasury. I even googled it and still don’t understand.

You know what… I don’t understand either.

Getting a Sale on Etsy Is Like Winning the Lottery

No, it isn’t. It’s one sale and you should expect it to happen pretty darn quickly. If it doesn’t then you need to go into the bathroom and look in the mirror and have a talk with your staff. Somebody in the room has goofed and it’s time to get it all out on the table (or counter as the case may be).

After your staff meeting it’s time to fix it, so figure out what’s broken.

  • Is your product up to snuff? Is anyone else selling something similar? Is it professional quality?
  • Is your photography good enough? In case you’re wondering, the answer is no.
  • Are your product descriptions helpful and clear and professionally written? All you have to do to understand what works is go find a few shops with sales and look at what they do!
  • Is your pricing right? Don’t assume it should be lower, maybe it should be higher if your product and photography and descriptions are great. Maybe your deal seems too good to be true.
  • What are YOU doing to market your shop?Nobody is going to do this for you. Etsy isn’t going to help you. It’s totally unrealistic to think that. You market it by:
    • Blogging, a lot, in your niche
    • Paying, a little, for advertising
    • Pounding the pavement – go out and find customers! Email people. Hand out cards. Go to craft shows. Sales offline today lead to sales online tomorrow. Hello.
    • Give away samples – send your items to friends, family, influencers, reporters, whatever.
    • Make a name for yourself – not in the Etsy forums. Elsewhere through guest blogging, commenting in outside forums and on blog posts with helpful tips, through press releases, etc.
  • Are you taking good care of the customers you do get? - Service, with a smile.
  • Rinse and Repeat – you keep doing this, and doing it, and doing it. You’re never done. This is business.

My Shop Is a Waste of Money

How much money? Seriously. What does it actually cost you to run an Etsy business? It’s so cheap that it’s almost free. Of course you can spend money on things but if you look back at the list above and ask yourself “is there a free way for me to do this?” on each item, you’re going to see that there is very little you have to spend money on.

My Shop is a Waste of Time

Only if you don’t do it right. Cooking a Turkey is a waste of time if you don’t prep it right and cook it properly. Washing the car is a waste of time if you don’t use anything but a dry rag. Going to school is a waste of time if you sleep on your desk all day and don’t listen to the teachers.

So, I guess, if you want it to be a waste of time it can be. But it doesn’t have to be. It can be the best time you’ve ever invested in any business or job. It’s really up to you.

I Don’t Know How to Make A Treasury

Who cares? Is that on my list? Do you see post after post here (or anywhere) about how to make a great treasury? Or how to be the most influential person in the Etsy Forums? You can get into treasuries later. They aren’t worthless. They do have business value for a well established shop and they have definite social and community building value.

But making treasuries as a strategy to get your first sales on Etsy is about as efficient as getting out from behind the wheel of your car and pushing it up the street. Uphill. In the snow. At night. Point is, there are easier ways to get where you want to go.

Now don’t get me wrong. There’s a place for treasuries after you get all your ducks in a row. It does you very little good to get an item on the front page of Etsy if your whole shop isn’t up to snuff. Your item may get lots of views and you may even get a sale or two. But then what?

You aren’t looking for a “sale or two”. You need sustained sales. You get that by repeating the items in the bullet list above. When you get to that point, then getting featured in a great treasury is going to bring you actual customers. It’s going to get you noticed by people who can spread the word.

Why Am I Being So Direct?

When I read the comment first listed above I pretty much had this whole blog post flash in an instant in my mind. This is just how I think.

But I did have to stop and ask myself this question…

Do people just need someone to be nice to them and encourage them? Maybe the “direct” answer will do more harm than good.

I thought about that a little bit and decided, as you’ve seen, to go the direct route. I want this blog and the community of readers to be about real success. REAL SUCCESS.

I’m talking about Etsy shops that pay school tuitions, or car payments, or the grocery bill. Even more, I’m talking about Etsy shops that grow into businesses that support entire families both now and far into the future. I’m talking about real business.

What about you? Are you really in business or are you playing games?

PS – I almost deleted this post for being to grouchy… instead I wrote another that shared the rest of the story: The Beautiful Mix of Business and Art


  1. says

    ha! thanks Tim! I prefer the “no nonsense” approach, so this is great!
    we all love encouragement, but I’d rather have someone give me the skinny! and my shop see success :) thanks so much for the list … I think I’m doing a few things right!!

    • says

      I am with the first writer. Loads of people favorite my products and shop but nobody buys. For one thing, how many men go on etsy looking for presents for girlfriends or sisters or mothers. i just saw etsy passed the 25 million mark, but how many buy things. i know many cool people who would never think of going to etsy if i didn’t direct them to it. and i have never met a man who was a regular visitor, other than as sellers. my products are reaqsonably priced but the postage can be expensive because many include vintage frames with glass. I use search ads — up to $40 a week, and I get favorites but no sales. i’m creatin a website and a blog but i think etsy was an idea waiting to be born and there’s more creative types selling things than buying them. i remain confident, because i’m proud of my site, but it seems strange…

  2. Lindsay says

    I can appreciate an honest and direct approach, if there’s some good advice to go along with it. This seems like a scolding rather than a helpful article.

    • Tim Layton says

      Hi Lindsay –

      It’s been a few days since I’ve had a chance to get to the comments, so I apologize for not responding sooner.

      I agree that the tone of my article isn’t perfect. I even thought about deleting it because I think that encouragement, more than just about any other one thing, can be the tipping point between success and failure. I deeply want to help my readers succeed, so I tend toward encouragement.

      But there probably is ONE thing more important than a positive attitude and “believing” you can do it. That one thing is self-discipline. No matter how positive thinking a person might be, he/she isn’t going to get anywhere as a self-employed business owner unless they really force themselves to keep going when they don’t feel like it and if they look inward when things aren’t working to see what they can do to fix it.

      Not every challenge is of our own making and indeed there are many things that just “happen” to us that can seriously alter our course. But in any circumstance only the persistence to push forward will lead to overcoming adversity.

      My post was meant along the lines of a coach yelling “you know you can do better than that!” than it was meant to be anything like a scolding. I’ve made way too many mistakes myself to be scolding anyone.

      I’m sorry you took it that way.

      – Tim

  3. Sarah A says

    Thank you! The direct approach is just what I needed and I am no longer going to waste time worrying about treasuries.

  4. Diana says

    Tim, I do not think that this post is unhelpful or wrong, or even unbalanced.
    I do think that some people need to be told directly, in no-nonsense language, that they are their own worst enemy. I think that this post is brave. I get emails from other Etsy shop owners, asking for advice on how to make a sale. When I go to their shop, the real answers are always screaming at me, but I am never brave enough to just tell them the truth in case it breaks them in some way. So I take a little time and give them some links to what got me on the right track and hope that they will open to learning.
    There is a lot more I could say on this subject, but I’ll save you the earache!

  5. Erin Speer says

    I loved the tone of this – I think it’s important to have a wake up call sometimes! We are working very hard to build my husband’s Etsy business – it’s not a game to us, but a real business and we want to make it go. Thanks so much for the ideas!

  6. Tim Layton says

    I appreciate the feedback, both positive and negative.

    I think the thing I’m most trying to fight against is the idea that “it just won’t work”. or “I can’t.”

    I’m truly inspired by the opportunity that anyone has on Etsy. It will work and you can!

    The feedback and conversation in the comments is really helpful for me. Gives me energy! Thanks.

  7. says

    Thanks Tim, I needed this kick in the pants since I’ve been viewing my 4 etsy shops along the same lines as the original commentator. I know of a few things that will help get my business growing, but that self-doubt voice in my head (and unsupportive family, besides the hubby who is great about it) keep saying what’s the point, get a “real job” that will actually make money. Thanks for telling it like it is instead of sugar coating it. No it’s not all about the money, I love what I do, but it sure will be nice when my businesses get off the ground and those who have been so unsupportive can eat their words. Time to get back to work.

  8. says

    I loved both posts. I think this one, though direct, is not too ‘grumpy’. Sometimes there is too much coddling going on in the forums with all the feel-good advice. I know for me, a smack up along side the head is very effective on occasions.

  9. says

    I agree wholeheartedly. I have two groups of items in my shop; one group gets in the treasuries, and the other group actually SELLS. Treasuries, forums and all that other stuff can be distractions if we let them. Etsy is cool, but if we look at it as anything more than a venue, we’re in trouble. We still have to work at it and make real-life contacts, not just on Etsy.

  10. says

    Oh eeeek! So very very true!! I’m South African and I have such a beautiful shop and stunning website – I LOVE my work and so do my customers… but I have done very prescious little to spread the word ( MARKETING) OR to make etsy a daily TO DO, simply becuase I feel like I am tied to the computer too long for little reward. But I agree with your rinse and repeat strategy. It’s got to build momentum over time – and I am stopping and starting – A LOT.
    I’VE got to build the momentum. It aint gonna be INSTANT and no-one else is gonna do it for me!
    Thanks for the straight talk, dude!

    From South Africa with Love

  11. Heather says

    Just what I needed – thanks! I’ve lost momentum. Thanks for getting me back on track!

  12. says

    Hi Tim,
    I’d read it and I love it! I am myself a very direct person and I know that sometimes people don’t take it the right way! Do you know how many times I have heard people calling me a b* or just plain rude?! I don’t really care! And I’d rather have a few people around me that appreciate my honesty than to have a bunch of pretenders hovering in the air like nasty birds waiting for me to drop dead! lol
    Well, saying that, I love your post and your honesty! Well, sometimes you been nice (too nice) doesn’t get your message across and, as my mum used to say, patience has a limit! We all want your help and that is why we are here! So you need to say it as it is and people need to put your saying in their heads! This is help! You are helping us to stop and think what we are doing, been it wrong or right!!!!
    And then we will all be grateful for your advice after we consider what we are doing!
    Thank you! Can’t wait for the next post!

  13. Shawnna says

    This article is great! Just because sometimes the advice isn’t what people want to hear doesn’t mean it isn’t the advice they should be getting! And sometimes a scolding is well in order.

    Now where’s a mirror, I need to have a talk with my staff…

  14. Crayon Me Crazy says

    I stumbled upon this blog accidentally, and am glad I did. Does everyone think facebook and blogging good ways to get your shop out there? I just opened my Etsy shop and am wanting pointers on growing my business. I have to admit I did a not-so-little dance when I got my first customer.

  15. says

    I appreciate the honesty. My shop has done well, it is my income, but I’m ready to take it to the next level so my husband can quit his day job too. These are good tips I can use to get there!
    Thanks Tim!

  16. Joe Fabeats says

    The purpose of Etsy is to get sales, If I have to promote my own site then why do I need Etsy ?
    Don’t believe me just check stats, The only people that see Etsy listings are Etsy shops !
    I can open my own website and use keywords I choose not some filtered BS, Etsy is a waste of time and money, The categories are worthless & lots of cheap junk made by bored housewives, Vintage yeah right.
    Thanks Tim for your unbiased opinion.

  17. Beth Anne says


    I seriously LOVE this post! I love how direct you are. People need that. We are a long way off from being a shop that pays real bills or supports our whole family, but that is the GOAL. We are not playing games. We are in this to be successful. Too many people want to throw something out there with no direction, no thought, no planning. You need to think through your product, your competition, SEO, marketing strategy, who is your customer, how do you find them, your product photos, descriptions, and hey, is your product even GOOD enough or unique enough to find its niche. Building a successful business does not happen by crocheting one scarf, snapping a photo on your cell phone, and throwing it online. (Woops, looks like I’m being the harsh one!) Our little shop certainly has a long way to go, but this article is the kick in the pants to keep me motivated each day. I LOVE your reality check for etsy sellers.


    Beth Anne from The Amateur Naturalist

  18. elnoren says

    If I am doing a search for a specific item (jewellry, gifts, etc.) via Google images and I see that it’s listed on esty I deliberately avoid it. No matter HOW many times I tell it I want products only from UK sellers, it insists on showing me things from the US. For me, I also consider etsy a waste of time… might be fine for customers in America, not for anywhere else.