What To Sell On Etsy: Why Most Advice Is Wrong

By Scott Voelker •  Updated: 01/09/23 •  11 min read

It's almost impossible to read a blog, watch a video, or listen to a podcast about Etsy without hearing the advice ” All you need to do is find a trend and follow it”.

Thankfully, I keep my hair rather short (at least short enough that I can't grab a decent handful of it) or I would be pulling it out.

Quite frankly, I'm tired of it.

It's not only just flat-out Bad advice, but it's leading new Etsy sellers in the exact opposite direction that Etsy has openly expressed will be the future of their platform.

The good news is, by doing the exact opposite of what most people advocate for, you'll find an easier path to success.

Before we dive into exactly how you should be doing this whole Etsy thing, let's take a look at why following the trends is a bad idea.

So even though this advice is everywhere, I can safely say that following trends is a bad idea.

Let's take a quick look at three reasons why this is some of the worst advice that you can follow and one time when it's okay.

Everyone Is Doing It

The first and what should be the most obvious reason that following trends is a bad idea is that everyone is doing it.

I mentioned just a minute ago that you can't watch a video, Listen to a podcast, or read pretty much any blog about Etsy without seeing that strategy advocated for.

The simple truth is, while you don't necessarily want to be a total pioneer and invent a completely new strategy, you also don't want to be doing the same thing everyone else is doing.

This is especially true when you can see how frustratingly slow it is for people to make their first sale using that method by entering any Etsy forum.

Additionally, as a new seller coming in, you're going to be competing against people with entire teams of designers dedicated to following every new trend that pops up.

Even if you can be one of the first people launching a product in that trend, there's a great chance your product will never see the light of day as people with deeper pockets list their version of that trending design for cheaper than you can even produce it.

Here Today Gone Tomorrow

The second main reason is that trends, by their definition, are not evergreen.

Do you remember the fidget spinner craze a few years ago?


Pet Rocks?

This here today and gone tomorrow aspect of trend-chasing is not only extremely frustrating for business owners, but it's a great way to burn yourself out.

Even if you catch the trend at exactly the right place with exactly the right product, chances are in just a few weeks or months you'll start to see your sales dropping as the trend goes away.

Rather than focusing your business on chasing the most recent trends, you should be developing a business that is built around evergreen products that, although they might not sell forever, will at least last you the next few years.

No Brand/Customer Loyalty

The third and most often overlooked reason that trend-chasing is bad advice is that trendy products don't create any brand or customer loyalty.

Not only has Etsy specifically started gearing a ton of effort towards developing brands on the platform, but having customers loyal to your shop, whether you're selling on Etsy or not, is one of the best ways to ensure your long-term success in e-commerce.

Not only are returning customers more likely to keep buying from you, but they often buy more stuff than new customers.

No one really cares about the brand of their fidget spinner or their pog set, but they can get very particular about anything related to their hobbies or interests… like the shops they buy their cookware from.

If we want to build a sustainable and long-term e-commerce business, we need to be looking for the type of customers that will have long-term brand loyalty and not just the people looking for the cheapest price.

When It’s OK To Follow A Trend

If you have a niche-based store, more on that below, and you can find a way to apply a trend to your specific niche, it can be okay to dabble a little.

For example, you may remember the ” keep calm and XYZ on ” trend that popped up a few years ago.

If we had a niche store focused around Shih Tzus and we saw that this trend was becoming popular, it may be okay to create a product or two that said something to the effect ” keep calm and Shih Tzu on” but we wouldn't want to base our entire store around that concept.

At this point, I'm sure you're probably thinking, ” that's cool and all Scott, but all you've told me is What not to do”.

I get it, let's take a quick look at what you should be doing instead of chasing trends.

What To Do Instead

Rather than chasing trends, what you should be focused on is a single niche.

If you haven't heard me talk about this in the past, rather than trying to be everything to everybody, your store should focus on one specific group of people.

The way that we like to define a niche is as something someone can say that they like or something that someone identifies as.

For example, you may hear someone say “I like fishing” or” I am a fisherman “.

In both of those examples, if we had a store designed to sell products to that person, we would be serving the fishing niche.

Using this niche-based approach, along with occasionally dabbling in other related niches, allows us not only to Not ever worry about chasing a trend, but it allows us to overcome the three main issues with the trend-chasing approach.

Why It Works:

This approach is much better for a variety of reasons, but for the sake of this article, I wanted to focus just on five very quickly.

Builds Customer/Brand Loyalty

This niche-based approach allows us to very quickly build customer or brand loyalty.

As we talked about above, building, customer or brand loyalty is one of the easiest ways to help us ensure the long-term success of our shop.

Not only does this mean more repeat customers with higher purchase values, but it also means more word of mouth.

People who identify as something will virtually always have friends and family members who identify the same way.

There's a great chance that if your customer is displaying the product they purchase from you in their house, on their body, or somewhere in their office, their interested Friends or family members will ask them where they purchased it.

Helps you Build a Seasoned Shop

If you've been in that ecosystem for any amount of time, you probably heard a bunch of different people talking about search engine optimization.

This is the process of making sure that your product listing actually shows up in Etsy search when someone searches for your product.

Although having a niche-focused approach is not a secret way of getting better search engine placement, it does lead to better long-term results.

The reason for this is, Etsy has a better understanding of the type of people who are interested in coming to our shop.

It makes sense, right, if I asked you to tell me what people who were buying water bottles with sayings about dogs, yoga, and astrology, all had in common… have a pretty tough time coming to an answer.

On the other hand, if I asked you to tell me what people who were buying pillows with phrases about fishing, wall mounts for bass, and the world's greatest fisherman t-shirts all had in common… It would take you less time to tell me than it did to read the sentence.

Additionally, because people know what to expect when they come to our store, we're likely to have repeat customers, and we typically will have higher card values (people interested in a niche will often purchase more than one product you have for sale), it's in Etsy's Best interest to give stores like ours priority.

After all, the entire job of Etsy's organic search algorithm is to provide the person searching on Etsy with the listing they will eventually buy.

Anything we can do to make their job easier is going to lead to outsized results.

Increases Order Value

As I've mentioned above, another side benefit of using the niche-based approach is an increase in order value.

If you walked into a store that had a million different water bottle designs, unless you were buying two of the exact same bottle, there's very little chance you'd walk out of there having picked two unique designs.

However, if you were really into fishing and found a pillow that called your name alongside a bunch of other home decor items that showcased your love of fishing, there's a very high chance you'd purchase a few of those things before leaving the store.

This higher cart value allows us, in the long run, to spend more to acquire customers than we could if we were using the trend-chasing approach.

Plus, it makes a hard job easier because we can make more money by fulfilling fewer orders and dealing with fewer people overall.

Makes Your Product Creation Process Much Easier

On top of the first three reasons, using the niche-focused approach makes the product creation process substantially easier.

Now, instead of trying to find and perfectly time the next trend to create your designs around, you can focus your time on one specific group of people.

This not only means that you can spend more time designing and launching products (for more on why that's important, you may want to check out this article about what happened when we launched 30 products in 30 days), but that you'll have more ideas at your fingertips.

People who are passionate about a subject are never scared to share their feedback for new and different products and designs.

Whether you spend just a few minutes in a Facebook group or you're looking at a directory response A customer has given you a message about a product they'd like to see, it's virtually impossible to run out of ideas for new products or designs when you are using a niche-based approach.

Helps Etsy Work For YOU

Lastly, the niche-based and brand approach is exactly what Etsy wants you to do.

Between the announcements from their CEO and the new features that they are rolling out, it is abundantly clear that the long-term goal of Etsy is to create more repeat purchases on their platform. 

They've launched a ton of features in the past year alone, like the ability to notify past customers whenever anything is on sale in your shop, that are designed to specifically connect customers with the brands they purchase from in the past.

Etsy does this because they know that it's easier to get someone to buy from someone they already know and trust.

If your store is focused on chasing trends, there's no real reason for anybody to come back to your shop.

However, if they bought a Christmas present from you last year and their dad hasn't shut up about how much he loved his bass fishing pillow, chances are they're going to return to your shop for his gift again this year.

I don't know about you, but I'd prefer to focus on the niche-based approach and take the friendly helping hand of Etsy rather than trying to fight against them.

Quick Recap

Quite frankly, the most common advice I see about what to sell on Etsy is just plain wrong.

Although there's nothing wrong with including the occasional trendy item in your store, it's a waste of time, energy, and effort to make that the foundation of your shop.

Rather, spend a little bit of time thinking about your hobbies, interest, or passions, and build a niche-focused store instead.

Not only will it make your life a lot less stressful, but you will get to reap the rewards of long-term customer loyalty, the helping hand of Etsy, and higher profits along the way.

If you are interested in learning the exact approach we use to choose niches for our Etsy stores, you may want to check out the product magic workshop here.

Scott Voelker

Over the years I’ve helped thousands of people TAKE ACTION to UNLOCK their true potential on building their ultimate freedom business, by developing the skills to make them resilient, confident and FUTURE PROOF. I’ve clocked my 10,000 hours over the years working in the trenches myself and helping others build and grow their brands. I know the power in TAKING ACTION better than anyone and I’ve seen people lives changed as a result of it...including my OWN!