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Heavens to Betsy, what gives, Etsy?
January 27, 2014 12:40 PM   Subscribe

So, I think I'm not getting Etsy. Etsy wizards, can I get a little help? What am I doing wrong with my shop? Do you have favorite tips/tricks sites?

This is my shop, selling photographgs. I get favorites every day, and I'm included in treasury lists nearly every day. But all the attention and eyeballs have gotten me no sales via the site.

I'm perfectly willing to accept that perhaps people just don't want pictures of what I'm selling, but is it unusual to get favorited and treasuried so often but have that result in no sales?

Other possibilities I've considered:
-I am not exactly active in the "Etsy community."
-I have not made my shop inviting enough
-I haven't really provided that much info about myself and my work.
-My prices and/or shipping are too high.
-My prices for the photos might be too LOW, thus devaluing my work.
-This is not the right place to be selling photos.
-Photos rarely sell online, which I'm aware of. But it seems like other photographers have success on the site.

I really don't know that much about Etsy...I've always thought of it as a world unto itself and as much a community as a place to buy handmade stuff online.

So, please fire away. I'm a big boy, if what I'm selling is crap, you can say so.

Thanks all!
posted by nevercalm to Computers & Internet (31 answers total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
 
Are you promoting your shop to and via your friends and family? I find that I have a spike in sales (I have an ArtFire shop) whenever a friend or family member shows off a bracelet or earrings I made and links to my site on Facebook.
posted by xingcat at 12:49 PM on January 27


How much do other photographers selling similar photos sell their work for?
posted by Jairus at 12:49 PM on January 27 [1 favorite]


Perhaps if you offered the add-on option of framing the prints as well as maybe a choice of paper finish (textured, canvas etc). I have this impression of Etsy (right or wrong) as a place where one goes to buy a finished creative product and for many, the hassle of taking a print out to be framed is one step too many.
posted by jamaro at 12:50 PM on January 27 [14 favorites]


Right off the bat, my first suggestion would be to include more than one image. Just picking the very first photo in your shop (it's gorgeous), the Etsy crop cuts off the top and bottom of your photo. So scale it with more black on the sides so that the entire feather is shown in your first photo. Then also have an image of that photograph on a wall. I myself dislike that generic photoshopped framed photo on the wall in a setting that a lot of photographers on Etsy use, but it really does give more of an idea of how the photograph would look framed on a wall, and also shows scale and proportion. I do not get a sense of either of those from your provided image.

So....show the entire photo in your introductory image. Offer more than one shot.....you have five slots for images, use them. Think about offering cards or postcards.

The photographers on Etsy who have a lot of sales make a lot of treasuries, and they offer things in addition to their photos - lockets, iphone cases, postcards, etc.

Raise your prices.

Memail me if you want more advice. I've been selling there since 2007.
posted by the webmistress at 12:51 PM on January 27 [15 favorites]


You need to have your photos matted and framed and ready to hang. Take some photos of your ready-to-go framed photos (beautiful, btw!) sitting pretty on a shelf so that the purchaser can envision it at their home. Otherwise, it's just a pretty image on a website and not a physical item to buy and place in your home, see what I mean?
posted by gyusan at 12:51 PM on January 27 [3 favorites]


If what you're selling is photos, Etsy may not be for you. A photographer friend has had better luck with more picture/art-specific sites; I'd link you to one but he's recently graduated to his own gallery and I can't find the site he used to use; it was something akin to Zazzle.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:58 PM on January 27


You mention different sizes are available in your listings but you have no mention of the sizes or what they would cost. Having pictures of the finished prints framed in some sort of setting so people get ideas of what it would look like finished also maybe showing a few different sizes as well. Make things as simple as possible so people don't have to go the next step to email you for info, you want all the info there for them.

Some listings for the same pictures in different sizes would be nice.

Do you just do photos of feathers & flowers? As an avid Etsy browser/shopper I would see your site go wow great quality photos very beautiful but I am not really interested in feathers/flowers and would probably bookmark your site to check out later to see what else you release. Which it sounds like people are doing, so maybe you might want to try a few other things.

Sell the photos in other formats, notecards etc.
posted by wwax at 1:02 PM on January 27 [3 favorites]


Show your photographs in an actual setting. I'd love to see them in a softly lit room, a bright room, a serious room, a kids' room, etc. Shoot photos of them hanging as art, give people the idea of what they will look like in person!
posted by barnone at 1:06 PM on January 27 [1 favorite]


You could ramp up your public relations... For example, I would check out some popularly shelter blogs (there are so many! just in Brooklyn, even!) and see if you can get a profile written about you and your work.
posted by mochapickle at 1:06 PM on January 27


Definitely include one or two detail images - maybe a tiny part of the overall photograph, zoomed in so you can see just how crisp the image is. That's important when buying art. That's one thing that distinguishes a professional (you) from an amateur.

You say "a small turnaround time" -- why not give some kind of range of number of days or weeks required? For some artists, a small turnaround time is 1-2 days, for others, it's 4-5 weeks. Being specific helps your buyers and makes you sound more professional.

You don't have any text in the profile section -- something describing you and why you notice feathers in particular (or other info about your relationship to these subjects) could help a lot.

Finally, I've seen some photo sellers on Etsy include a shot of a nice room with a framed piece of their art on the wall. It helps one imagine what art like yours contributes to one's whole life, introducing the idea of seeing it every day, and seeing it while you're sitting on a couch, walking into the room, etc. It also shows at least one idea for displaying and framing the art, which can be helpful.
posted by amtho at 1:08 PM on January 27 [1 favorite]


Etsy is really hard for selling art, especially prints. There are SOOOOOOO many that people tend to get overwhelmed when looking. Your stuff is GORGEOUS though. That said my recommendations:

1. Fill out your policies
2. Fill out your About Me Page
3. Add more photos, what would it look like framed? On the wall?
4. Where are you promoting yourself? You need to bring people to you. I bet your stuff would do well at an art fair just because it is unique, striking, and beautiful.

Good luck! I'm semi-successful on etsy but I don't sell art so ymmv.
posted by magnetsphere at 1:10 PM on January 27


Some of my artist friends have been using Society6 to sell their pieces. As a buyer I like the options of different sizes and to get the prints framed or not (I don't like dealing with framing myself). You can also expand to iphone cases, gift cards, etc. as others have mentioned above. I don't know anything about the cost/cut on the artist side though, sorry. Your work is beautiful, BTW.
posted by misskaz at 1:25 PM on January 27 [4 favorites]


Definitely ramp up your PR. Pick a few bloggers (not too many) and offer them a print for a giveaway.
posted by judith at 1:29 PM on January 27


I came to say Society6 also.

Funny, I saw your photos on the front page of etsy a few weeks back (a month?), and I was like, "OMG!!! That's the guy from metafilter!"

A lot of the people on etsy are selling to friends and friends of friends. The people who make more than a few sales a year seem to treat it like a full-time job.
posted by polly_dactyl at 1:30 PM on January 27


I like it when I can see a photo of the actual print, at an angle so you can see the texture of the paper (or the glossiness/matte-ness, etc). It makes it come alive as a physical object you're buying, instead of just another nice photo on the internet. And I agree, would be nice to have a framed option. (Even if you used store-bought mats and frames!)
posted by chowflap at 1:42 PM on January 27 [2 favorites]


Just one person's opinion, but I think your niche is too narrow. The two white rose photos are great - especially the one with the two petals. The feather photos are well done, but I think the audience of people who want to decorate with full feather photos is relatively smaller than the audience of people who want to decorate with abstracts. Find roses that are white or lightly colored with darker, colored edges and shoot a bunch of abstracts that go with the ones you have.

The other thing I'd note is that the feather/flower photos have a lot of black in them. Artistically, this looks good, but again, I'm not sure how many people want a lot of black in their living room. Consider a lighter background (though I'm not sure that would work) or fill your frame with more feather/flower color and less black.

I do think you could make the feather/flower photos work by showing them in a home setting. I think a row of four or five of those photos in a hallway would be very cool. Or maybe a 3 x 2 grid (six photos total) behind a couch. Since a grid of photos has white space in between, it minimizes the dark space in the photos and gives you a theme, rather than a random single feather photo. You might also consider a book of feather/flower photos. Not sure how well books like that sell, but I think the feather/flower photos work better as a group than individually.

Also, I don't think people tend to decorate with small (5x7 to 11x14) photos. I'd look at 24" x 36" photos or larger, printed on canvas. People might buy two large photos on canvas to put in a living room to compliment the decor already there.

Good luck, and come back to the thread and update us on your progress.
posted by cnc at 1:52 PM on January 27 [1 favorite]


i think your photos are super cool. however i wouldn't probably hang them up. i would buy them as a) postcards, b) notecards, c) a giant oversized print as a statement piece in a room.

also, think about your tagging. maybe tag the white roses etc. with things like "wedding" or "valentine" or stuff like that. i know it feels cheesy/sleezy, but it will bring a few more people to your photos.

also, also, for each photo maybe tag with some of the prevalent colors. i was recently looking for some "pink" art and filtered down from there to more specifics. perhaps some other people do that when decorating for a specific theme.

just spitballing here.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 2:37 PM on January 27 [2 favorites]


I entered "photograph" in the search field and then randomly clicked on different photos. One seller who has more than a thousand reviews had this as the heading for her listing: "Fine Art Photograph - Nature Photograph - Lake - Michigan - Summer - Water - Beach Photograph - The Cool Blue." I'm thinking you might add more terms to snag buyers. Imagine what someone might have in mind as they begin to browse for a photo. I might have a wisp of an idea that I'd like a bird photo, but I wouldn't enter "blue jay" or "guineafowl" -- I'd start with bird, and perhaps your feather portraits would catch my eye. A lot of people buy art as a decorating accessory, so if there's a feature that might play into that, add words like "colorful" or whatever applies.

I don't know how Etsy's search works, and if it includes the text in the listing. If it does, you can write a paragraph with several terms that might help buyers stumble upon your work.

When someone favorites a listing, can you see who they are? If so, send them a message offering a discount or other deal. Or just thank them for looking, and offer to answer questions.
posted by wryly at 2:48 PM on January 27


Wow folks, thanks for all the feeedback! I'm about to do a show, but there's a lot of great answers here and clearly I have a lot of work to do...

Hopefully this isn't threadsitting, but:

Other photographers are all over the map, pricewise. I initially listed everything with higher prices, more in line with what I sell prints for when I show my work, and got nothing, so I knocked everything way down. Then I still got nothing, so....

To answer The Webmistress...yeah, the default Etsy crop is for a horizontal image, they have no setting that will allow you to display a vertical thumbnail. My fear with making the image large enough so the whole feather displays in the thumbnail is that someone who isn't really paying attention will think the image is horizontal with all that negative space behind it. I even started to do that and convinced myself that I wasn't doing the right thing. I'll give it a shot, and I'll definitely start adding other images, that's great.

I'll try to get to everything everyone else suggested, thank you all! Keep em coming!
posted by nevercalm at 2:50 PM on January 27


I get favorites every day, and I'm included in treasury lists nearly every day.

I favorite things I like but probably will never buy all the time. I assume it's the same for many users.
posted by sm1tten at 3:11 PM on January 27


When someone favorites a listing, can you see who they are? If so, send them a message offering a discount or other deal.

You can see, unless their Favorites are private. Contacting them is, in theory, a good idea. Unfortunately Etsy considers this spam and will take action if you are reported more than a few times for it. People use Favorites for all sorts of things (just like here on MF), including earmarking for treasury-making, and do not want to be contacted.

One seller who has more than a thousand reviews had this as the heading for her listing: "Fine Art Photograph - Nature Photograph - Lake - Michigan - Summer - Water - Beach Photograph - The Cool Blue."

This is a good point. Add more words to your titles and pad out your tags. Read this article on SEO and this article on Google Shopping to see how to use your titles to get more eyeballs in your shop.
posted by the webmistress at 3:15 PM on January 27 [1 favorite]


Further thoughts:

Would it be rude to suggest working with a designer to do a nice calendar? I'd totally buy a calendar like that, especially with some interesting information about each bird.

The feathers would be great office or B&B art. It's interesting and evocative without being offensive. Can you figure out how to tag to capture that audience? Office art, business art, hotel art, office photography, etc. That might be a good way of broadcasting to bloggers too - find someone who has a B&B and a blog, or who blogs about office design, and offer to give them a large print in a giveaway.

Show sizes of your art in a room, like this or this feather photograph on Etsy does (photo 3). It's useful to see the difference between the sizes and lets the customer imagine it in their own space.

If my own reaction helps, they're gorgeous on the screen, but I'm unsure how they would look printed and hanging on my wall. I think if they were framed in a white or light wood frame, with a white mat, they might transform into something a bit more contemporary.

Funky frame:
Ride the Sky Coney Island Print Nursery Decor Baby by minagraphy

Various frames and detail shots:
Feather print 8 x 10 matted nature feather

Very nicely contextualized -- look at the mood her photos evoke in those rooms!
Two Feathers photograph

Nicely displayed for the Etsy crowd:
Golden Feather Photograph Oversized Photo

Frame for reference only (not included):
Feather photograph minimal pale wall art black

Similar to yours, in a photograph display:
Peacock canvas gallery wrap


Have you thought about experimenting with white backgrounds, instead of black? Personally, the whole "macro zoom photograph of object on black background" seems a bit out of style for my own home decorating taste. They're amazing photographs, but I don't want to hang them in my house. Many folks are going for the lighter, more ethereal look, with more texture and context in the images themselves. Of course, that makes it harder to compete, but you should take a peek at the feather photographs that are doing well, and see if that's up your alley at all.

nest photography bedroom decor neutral wall art

Feather photo nature photography tribal bird art

White Downy Feather Photograph Still Life

Orange feather photograph
posted by barnone at 3:26 PM on January 27


I think your prices are good, but you might want to consider discounts for multiples (even if that means you actually raise the base price for a single print). Personally I am more likely to buy a set of three or five prints when they are on the smaller side. I also agree you should include some much larger ones, though. And notecards or postcards would be nice as an option for people who love your work but don't have enough room on their walls for more prints!
posted by lollusc at 3:28 PM on January 27


Your art is great.

I actually think there's probably a big significant photographs-of-feathers market out there, with all that they have been featured in Urban Outfitters jewelry, hipster headdresses, etc. Etsy is probably a good place for it. But I think others are right in that people are unlikely to buy a print-only of one. Find a friend with a really chic looking apartment to stick it on their wall and photograph it. I think people will be more likely to buy it if they can envision it as part of the "look" they want to create in their home.
posted by mermily at 3:55 PM on January 27


I am an Etsy seller and you've been given a lot of great advice but I'll also add these suggestions:

- It is .20 cents to list, take advantage of that to test things like listing names, lead photo type, etc. There is nothing that says you can only have one listing for say the pheasant feather... Try a couple. This has a second advantage in that successful Etsy sellers overwhelmingly say that more listings = more sales, even when there are multiple listings for same items. If your item may be of interest to different demographics then target those demographics with different listings.

- List in the subject that you have larger format prints. I would love to buy more art on Etsy but so many artists have 8.5x11 as their largest size ... because they are using home printers ... not what I am looking for.

- Do you take custom work? I have a pet bird and think it would actually be really lovely to have a photo in your style of one of her feathers hung over her cage. I also would totally purchase photos of my favorite flowers (lily of the valley and peonies) in larger print but of course I know those are seasonal so harder to take custom for, if I did I would probably want either 3 complimentary versions of 1 flower or 2 of each, especially if they're smaller photos. If you do offer custom photos then put a listing up for it instructing customers on how to send you feathers and what the turnaround is, etc.
posted by elista at 4:53 PM on January 27 [1 favorite]


Please note that barnone's example images are all fake. That isn't really a photo of that image in a bedroom; it's Photoshop. As a buyer I know this but it really helps with making a decision to buy. I don't know what the term of art for those staging backgrounds is but there must be one because they are all over Etsy.

Also, please consider using the black frames and mats from IKEA for your stuff. It keeps costs down for me as a buyer and is easy for you, too.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:59 PM on January 27 [2 favorites]


About the fake backgrounds - some are fake, some are real. Or at least I meant to post a variety. I personally prefer the 'real' photos but even the fake ones help quite a bit. There must be a number of those staging backgrounds you can play with on Photoshop, or some kind of generator, because everyone uses them.

If you don't want to deal with shipping frames, include a note that "this fits the Ribba frame at Ikea or the Gallery frame from West Elm" -- the additional info is really helpful. Then I don't have to figure out where to buy the frame on top of the art, and if I can order that online too, all the better.

Good luck! Keep us posted on how it goes!
posted by barnone at 7:36 PM on January 27


Have you looked at handmadeology.com? He is a metal artist who started sharing what he learned about selling on Etsy and now has turned that into a business. There is plenty of info about marketing, pricing, and getting noticed on Etsy on the free site; the pro version offers more in-depth videos/ebooks/tools. I have found some good stuff there. You might find it useful to read/subscribe as a way to regularly get ideas.
posted by Nosey Mrs. Rat at 8:36 PM on January 27


Your photos are not protected. I just found that your ranunculus can be copied by anyone who just wants a small pretty picture. Can you exhibit them so that they can't be copied?
posted by Cranberry at 1:07 AM on January 28


Thanks again, everyone. When I get some time, I'll be implementing most if not all of what everyone suggested here.

A few thoughts:

Does anyone have a postcard/calendar site they like that will do wholesale? I love this idea and I think I could whip up some nice stuff, but I've never found anyplace that seems like they give a crap about color and decent printing and everything else. I don't consider sites like Snapfish to be serious contenders.

Cranberry, as far as I know there's no mechanism on Etsy to protect photos. If you post them there at anything less than the recommended resolution, they tend to look pixelated or blurry. For things with really fine detail like the feathers I'm trying to sell, that's death. So, they're there and if someone wants to steal them, there's really nothing I can do about it. I think these days if you put something online, you just sort of live with that. If they can't right click, they can screen cap, find the source file or any of a number of other things as well. It sucks, but there it is. I always figure that the person who's right clicking and saving would never buy in the first place.
posted by nevercalm at 11:22 AM on January 28


I'm a little late, hope you're still checking this!

A quick look at your shop showed me one very easy thing you can do to boost your search rankings - fix your tags. As someone mentioned above, tagging with the item's colors is goofy but really will help.

More importantly, though, you're wasting some tags through unnecessary duplication. When you list something on etsy, the initial categories and subcategories the form forces you to choose, actually also count as tags.

The site does not make this very clear when you're listing, and ironically it's way easier for me to see than you. Just view any of your listings as a customer would, and scroll down to the very bottom. There you'll see the tags associated with that item. On your coleus leaf photo, for example, you've chosen the category Art - Photography - Nature, and then also used those words as tags again. So that's a waste of three slots that could potentially be bringing you more traffic through different keywords.

Etsy's search function has also changed in the past year or so to include a new algorithm which prefers multiple-word tags to single-words. So in a search for "nature photography," items which are tagged with that *phrase* will rank higher than those tagged with "nature" and "photography." Any time you can come up with a multiple-word phrase which seems like a thing people might be searching for, it's always smarter to use that instead of individual words. The etsy forums contain a ton of information on SEO, although you should go in knowing that the people who post the most there, tend to be the less successful sellers.

I hope this helps. I've heard photography can be a tough sell on etsy, but you've got an advantage in that your work is obviously professional. Good luck!


(For what it's worth, I make my entire living from etsy, and would be more than happy to answer any questions via private message.)
posted by jessicapierce at 7:46 AM on January 30 [1 favorite]


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