Choosing The Right Products

A comment on the blog last week got my attention. The commenter said that she had made a mistake with her shop by making what she thought people wanted to buy, rather than what she wanted to make.

Her comment brings up an interesting question. How do you decide what to sell when you want to open an Etsy Shop?

I’ve created a little graphic that might help you visualize the answer.


Success Lives In the Intersection of Three Circles

1. What people will buy.

The best way to determine what people will buy is by looking at what they are already buying.

That used to be much easier than it is today. Until last fall, Etsy had a “recently sold” tool as part of the “Pounce” feature, which has been removed. Unfortunately, that makes it a little harder to figure out what’s selling, but it’s still not too difficult.

  • Watch the recently listed items – You can view recent listings at the bottom of the Etsy home page, or in a full page view here.
  • Click on listings that appeal to you.
  • Click through to the shop by clicking on the shop name.
  • See how many sales are in that shop.
  • If the shop has good sales, click on the sales link to see what they are selling.

This takes some time, no doubt, but it will help you build a better feel for what’s selling.

If you really feel like you’ve got your finger on the pulse of the market and you know intuitively what people will buy, fine. But I’d encourage you to test your theory by looking for similar items.

2. Things you know how to make.

If your goal is to build a shop with long term steady sales then quality and consistency in your products is going to be important.

In order to ensure that you’ll be able to produce great quality in a reasonable amount of time, you’re going to what to limit your options to things you already know how to do very well.

If you want to sell something that you’re not 100% skilled at, then your first order of business is to get really good at making it. Then worry about selling it.

3. Things you love or feel connected to.

We’ve said before that the secret weapon of handmade is love. The love people put into the work of their hands comes through in the finished products and it’s an ingredient no mass-production firm can match.

Making something is a small part of the battle. Marketing it is sometimes the harder part. It is so much easier to market something you truly have a passion for.

What can you talk about for hours on end? What kind of store can you simply not go in and look around when you pass it? What types of blogs and magazines do you like to read? What is the predominant theme on your Pinterest boards?

These answers will help you figure out what you love enough to be able to stay consistent in marketing and talking about your products and things related to them.

Success Is Where These 3 Meet

You can make a little money if you can find something you can make that people will buy, even if you don’t love it.

But that’s going to get old fast. It’s going to be really hard to find long-term success there.

If you can find that place where the market, your skills, and your passion intersect, you’ll be able to establish yourself there.

You’ll find that Etsy success you’re looking for!

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. The comments are open!

~ Tim


  1. Karen hornsten says

    Tim, thanks for the wealth of information. I have a problem, I LOVE what I do, but…’s the rub, in this small niche there is a lot of competition. I am looking for staying in the craft I love, but nobody seems to want these items as they are. i have been trying to go one step further and offer something a little bit more unique than other shops. I fear with this craft I am not hitting the ‘what people are buying’ zone. So I offer lots of other choices in the paper arts area, none which seem to get notices. Maybe this is a Google problem, or maybe I am just wandering in the ‘no buy zone’?

  2. Tim Layton says

    Hi Karen,

    I know that can be a frustrating feeling. If you want some opinions, leave your shop link and we’ll go take a look and see if any ideas jump out at us.

    Thanks for being here today!


  3. says

    Hi Tim,
    Just wanted you to know that I tried to Pin this on my Business/Marketing P Board and it wouldn’t pin, says no image. I like to Pin this valuable info on that board, along with the Everything Etsy News.
    Thanks for all of the useful information.

  4. says

    Very interesting, I think we need to know to integrate, products that buyers want, and products weI like to do, eventually, each chain has “its neck”, and each ear has “its earring”.
    When a client came into the shop to find what he wanted, he could also see the product I like to do, and buy it.
    In my experience, when I opened the shop, I knew that my Hamsa – will be “my bread” , but I can’t do only hamsa – It’s boring.
    I found, often, that a client that buy Hamsa, also buy earrings.
    I think diversity is important in the shop, the quality, no question, it is clear that this must be quality,
    Quality, and personal attention, brings the clients return to the shop.
    The tips you gave about the sales of shops is interesting, but not always, what one shop that sells well, you would sell well too. :-)

    • Tim Layton says

      Sigalit, I love this comment! I’m so glad it wasn’t lost forever in the missing comments vacuum! Your point is so totally spot-on that I’m going to have to write a post about it. You bring people in with what they think they want, then they see everything else you have and get inspired to try something new. Brilliant. – Tim

  5. says

    Your heading What People will Buy has me stumped! Things I know how to make, feel connected to and love, I’ve got covered! I am overwhelmed though by the competition.

    I have a handmade shop and a vintage shop. I LOVE both but am loving the vintage more now…just got tapped out as to what else to make for my handmade shop. There are a ton of shops in both categories as mine. I check them out whenever possible! I cannot get a good feel though for where I fit or why my sales are not as high as others. What are they doing different? For example, some vintage shops are selling like crazy with prices similar to mine….I know that is a broad statement because what are the items, right? I try to have unique things and then I search them on Etsy and there are several of what I am about to list. Do I skip listing it? I also have a blog that I promote my items on plus Twitter and Facebook and I am on about 10 Teams between the two shops! I spend 4-5 hours a day online doing Etsy stuff and promoting my stuff! I have read your articles on ads and not sure I want to do that yet….

    Loving your daily tips, btw….!
    Here are my shops if you have time to check them out….


  6. says

    This is very good advice! Sales for me have been consistent but not stellar. I am working to improve the sales numbers, but at the end of the day I have products in my shop that mean something to me and I enjoy creating. Something I consider when choosing what to list is what can I finish fast? I love to quilt but I’m not going to make any long term commitments with a buyer, I like to get it out the door and on to the next thing. The slowish sales numbers I know are a gift from God as He knows exactly how I need to be spending my time. As I can’t seem to get all of the items that I have ideas for up for sale I guess I that says something. I also really enjoy the technical aspects of learning to sell online. What I’m saying is I’m not getting rich but I’m having fun and learning a lot!

    • Tim Layton says

      Hi Trixie,

      I love your attitude and I think it’s exactly right! You keep learning, keep getting better, keep growing your list of products and income streams, then one day, when you have the time, maybe things will start to really take off because you have the preparation all done!


  7. says


    This is the second blog I’ve read today that has spoke directly to what I’m focusing on in my shop recently…thanks so much!

    I’m with Trixie (above), trying to find that right balance of what I love, what sells, and what direction the Lord is pointing. Posts like this one have been serving to remind me…keep at it, but BE PATIENT!

    Thanks again!

  8. Tim Layton says

    Hi Sigalit

    I’m so sorry you lost a comment. You know that has happened to me once or twice recently. I’ll research it and see if there is a common problem I can fix.

    Thanks for trying and I’m sorry for the inconvenience.


    • says

      Thanks Tim :)
      I ‘ii try again, Lol
      The tip you gave about sales of shop it is interesting, but we all know, a product that is sold in one shop – great, not necessarily sell well in another shop.
      I think we should do things the buyer looking for, and things we love to do, to integrate the both. I knew that I come to a very busy niche, and I think that the quality, personal attention, and diversity, are essential to success .
      I always say: “every neck has his chain”, and “each ear has its earring” LOL, Sometimes it takes fast and sometimes slow,
      When I opened my shop, I knew that my hamsa will be “my bread”
      But since it’s boring to do just Hamsa, I tried more items that I had fun doing them,
      And slowly, the customers that came in, found the other stuff, and bought them.
      I know there are many shops, more successful than my shop, but I think I managed to get satisfied customers who return.
      Of course the goal is to more customers!!

  9. says

    Another spot-on post — thanks, Tim!

    Comment/question: I know you are focusing on handmade, but I think there’s room for discussion about vintage selling, too (since it’s a significant segment of the Etsy marketplace now). There’s a lot of overlap between the two, but there are also distinctions that I think are worth exploring. In this case, I think 2 of the circles would be the same (Things you love, and Things people will buy), and the third circle for vintage would be something like, “Things you’ve developed (or are developing) an expertise in” and/or “Things you can acquire at a lower price than you can resell them for.”

    Cassie’s Tale Vintage

  10. says

    Gday Tim
    Well I think a few of us have the same issue… we love making things… do it well, research the prices, advertise as well as we can…small or nil sales!
    I have actually ceased uploading my ‘Creations’ each of ehich is unique… and am now resorting to actual markets! I am concerned that the postage in my country is quite prohibitive, but we have weighed items and cannot do it for any less than stated on my Etsy site!
    Thankyou for all your information it is very helpful.
    My question besides why can’t I sell my products is…..why did the’ sold’ history dissapear?
    (I was using it to see what was popular… it helped me decide on starting an Etsy account.)

  11. says

    My comment also vanished!! lol
    Attempt no. 2!!
    ~ love what I make, don’t sell anything
    ~ it’s original design for every item
    ~ Why did the ‘Sold’ information dissapear from public access?
    ~ Postage is high in my country…is that the problem?

    I agree with a few of the comments, we advertise, we make things out of love, we sell what we do well..(if we sell at all)…
    I have had this store for months, but …nothing!
    I read all the blogs …

  12. says

    I posted a vanishing comment yesterday, too. Methinks three disappearing posts makes for a pattern (and not as pretty a pattern as the circles in your great post, Tim!) :)

    The long and short of the comment was: (1) another great post, Tim – thanks! and (2) although this post (and some others) focus on handmade, I think there’s also room for vintage in the discussion. There’s a lot of overlap between the two, but also some differences that I think are worth exploring — and that may be helpful/informative for people in both groups.

    In this post, I’d suggest that two of the three circles are the same for both vintage and handmade — “Things you love,” and “Things people will buy.” But the third circle for vintage would be something like “Things you have an expertise in,” or perhaps “Things you can acquire that you can resell at greater than acquisition cost.”

    Cassie’s Tale Vintage

  13. says

    I actually just wanted to chime in on the vanishing comments! This has happened to me a couple of times recently on your blog, I just didn’t take the time to re-type. I’m copying this one just in case. (By the way, this is the 6th copy and my last attempt!)

    When I opened my Etsy store, I filled it with things I liked to make that had been popular tutorials on my blog. I had almost no sales. When I created a new tutorial for an entirely different item that had people asking me to sell them, I knew I had hit the mark. I changed my shop to feature that item and others related to it and sales have been good ever since. I’m still sewing, just a different set of items. I think you have to be willing to adapt to your market. I still keep a section in my shop of items that are slower sellers but I love to make. It keeps us all happy.

    • Tim Layton says

      Hi Staci – Sounds like you’ve learned how to measure the market demands well! That’s the ticket!

      For anyone who might have had comment issues, I’ve figured out the problem and am working on it. For now, if your comment doesn’t show-up, don’t worry… it will! It’s just stuck in my spam folder waiting for me to say “that’s not spam!”, which I do at least once a day, usually more. But it seems to be happening less frequently now.

  14. says

    Well, since that one worked, here’s an abbreviated version of what I tried to post earlier:

    (1) Great post, Tim – thanks!

    (2) Although this article focuses on selling handmade, I think there’s also room in the discussion for selling vintage (on this topic and others). There’s a lot of overlap between the two, but also some differences that I think are worth discussing — and that might be informative/helpful for everyone. In this case, I think 2 of the 3 “circles” would be the same for both handmade & vintage – “Things I love,” and “Things people will buy.” The third circle for vintage selling might be something like: “Things you have an expertise in,” or maybe “Things you can acquire and resell for less than their acquisition cost.”

    • Tim Layton says

      Great point Lisa. When I made the visual I toyed with the idea of writing “things I can make or find” with vintage in mind, but I was concerned it would be confusing.

      I agree that most of the concepts apply equally to both, but vintage certainly has some unique challenges and opportunities.

      I’m working on the comment issue. Having a hard time figuring out the problem since it works sometimes and not sometimes. May be the anti-spam plugin.

      Hopefully I can fix it soon! Don’t want to discourage comments!

      Thanks for your persistence.


  15. Mary says

    Hi Tim,

    Loving your daily tips. Thanks so much.

    I believe you have to love what you make as I love each and every one of my products. I started my shop 15 months ago. Sales were slow until December. I started advertising and that is helping too. My sales are gradually increasing and I am happy. You can’t expect too much too soon. Slow and steady wins the race especially when you have a specialty product that you know not everyone will want. Just have to be patient.

    I love creating my products from the moment I choose the fabric. I still have a lot to learn that I believe will help to increase my sales and I am all ears (and eyes)!

  16. says

    I am in the process of researching prior to opening my shop. One thing I have noticed, that I think is important is to be following the type of blogs that are owned/written by your target market. It seems to me that by following, commenting and observing the home decorating circle of blogs, fo example, that not only I am learning what my “target market” wants to buy, and is buying, I am learning just who to sell my vintage items to.

    The prior writer suggestion to create tutorial is interesting…I have see that tutorials are very POPULAR. On one hand she got a lot of interest in her item, however did she not “undercut” her sales by giving away her secrets for how it is made? That seesm like it would decrease rather than increase her sales….please enlighten me.

  17. says

    Tim, great advice. I’m a newbie here..opened up shop on January 23rd, 2012. First thing I do in the morning, after prayers, grab a cup of coffee, and then head to the computer to check my Etsy shop, check email..etc. I usually check back a few times during the course of the day and participate in as many threads as possible. I know the only way people will know me, my store and my branding is to get out there and let them know I’m here. I have been told that the secret to longevity is to keep hanging in there. I have focused on making this a 7 day week, 10 hours a day job. I hope that I am doing all the right stuff..Any suggestions?