When Good Work Doesn’t Sell

So many questions I get are around the question, “Why isn’t my work selling?”
Like most questions in life and business, the answer is sometimes multilayered and complex. But sometimes it’s not. Sometimes a quick look at a Facebook page, Etsy shop or website and it’s evident right away what the problem is. 
If your work isn’t selling, there’s a problem in one of two general area: Traffic or Conversion.
1) Traffic. A lack of traffic is the equivalent of a brick and mortar store being in a terrible location. If no one is coming into your store, no one can buy anything. You need traffic.
2) Conversion. This is the number of people who come into your store that actually buy something. Usual average “Conversion Rate” is between 2% and 3%. This means that to get 2-3 sales you need 100 visitors. If your conversions are lower (or non-existent) something else is wrong. Plus – if you’re not getting much traffic, there’s no one to convert. The problem compounds. It’s all a numbers game.
Today let’s talk about the second item: Conversion. As much as you need to address traffic, it’s useless to bring traffic in without first fixing the conversion issues, much like it’s pointless to pour water into a bucket that’s full of holes.
While there are numerous places you can lose people, some technical, some not, the three that I see as the biggest beasts in the arena are Images, Friction, and Credibility. Fortunately these are also all very fixable if you put some elbow grease and time into them. Come with me and let’s look at each one.




Let’s not mince words. Are your pictures bad? I’m not talking esoterically high-level, “you could have moved the chain over, there’s a stray speck of dust, the white balance is half a skoche, artistic self-flagellation off.” bad. 

No. I’m talking fuzzy, “what the heck IS that” bad. 

  • Folks who are trying to sell an earring with a shot of their bestie wearing it, and the earring takes up like, five pixels. 
  • Photos that are so dark they could have been shot in the Marianna Trench. 
  • Images with so many props in them you don’t know if you’re buying a ring, a rock, or a birds worth of feathers. 
  • Pictures that are shot so close to the camera, auto-focus gave up and took a nap. 
  • Photos that were desperately shot for a white background – and blew out the object so badly it looks like it’s a ghost of it’s actual self.
  • Pieces shot in a hand, on a finger, or on an ear so all your eye focuses on are pores, fingerprints or veins. Or dirty fingernails.

Really bad photos. The kind that get mentally stamped with a bright red pulsing AMATEUR across them. 

Images that makes you see “bad photo” before you ever have a chance at seeing “good jewelry”.

Pictures that do not persuade you to part with your money.

Good pictures are a must. Clear, well-lit images. If you can’t muster them yourself hire it out. Don’t kid yourself. You can’t sell anything with bad pictures.




How are you asking people to buy? Are you on Etsy or a website with a buy button and a shopping cart? Good! Do you offer free shipping, or clearly spelled out shipping costs? Great!

Are you posting things on a Facebook page? Not as good. Are you clearly spelling out the price, along with how to buy? Or are you waiting for prospective buyers to take the initiative and ask the price, ask how to buy, to fill in all the information you’re not supplying that would normally be included on a professional site?


This is one example of “friction”. Professional marketers spend countless hours and dollars to reduce the friction of a sale. Think about Amazon’s “One-Click” purchasing. It’s so popular it’s patented. Taking steps out of the checkout flow is a holy grail for e-commerce. 

So by posting a picture and waiting for someone to ask a price, you’ve purposely inserted friction. Every additional step to purchase inserts more friction, more “stops” for a buyer to hop off the sale train. Posting an image on Instagram (no matter HOW great the image) and hoping someone asks to buy it, is not a marketing plan. Posting “$150 shipped free in the USA, DM me with your PayPal email to purchase” is better.

If you want to sell your work, you need a sales platform. Social media isn’t a sales platform, regardless of what some will tell you. It can be an adjunct, sure. But to create a lot of sales there takes a lot of finesse – and care to reduce friction.

Even if you’re on a slick professional platform – WordPress, Shopify, etc, you still need to be careful to reduce friction.

Ever been on a website where it seemed you’d never cross the finish line on a purchase?

  • “Create an account… I just want to give you my money…. Not my life story…”
  • “Why do you need my phone number? I hate phone calls… are you going to sell my phone number… omg…”
  • “a survey… oh geez….”
  • “NO, I don’t WANT an extra set of batteries or a matching mousepad thanks so much, let’s move along, shall we???”
  • “wait.. coupon code?.. I don’t have a coupon code… maybe I can find a coupon code… I’ll wait to buy until I find one..”

Every extra step in the process of completing a sale is an opportunity for the customer to re-think and say, “Nah. Never mind.” This is where abandoned carts come from – and why pictures posted on Facebook pages rarely get results.

Think about what you’re asking. Someone who doesn’t know you has to either message you (which you may or may not even see in a timely manner – thanks Facebook) or post publicly on your page (What if it’s a gift? So much for a surprise) Then they have to wait for a response. Then maybe there are more questions. In the best of all worlds it’s cumbersome, inefficient and annoying.

Is this what you want for you customers?

It also pops up the issue that often scares people away….




If you’re going to ask someone to fork over their money, you’d better give them reason to trust you.

Posting a picture on a sparsely populated Facebook page or brand new Etsy shop isn’t far from the digital equivalent of a guy in a dark alley muttering “Hey! Wanna buy some jewelry?” while slipping open a trench coat. Sure, I’ll take that $5 Rolex right there…

The interwebs are too competitive, too shiny and too validated to not level yourself up. Do you really want to be the lemonade stand outside of Starbucks?

No. You don’t.

If you’re serious about your work, and want to create a real business, put up a real shop. Populate it with enough examples of your work that you don’t look like a hobbyist. Remember, you can take orders – you don’t have to have everything made and sitting on a shelf ready to go.

> Get the SSL (the “https” in the URL bar), make it look professional. Many hosts and platforms include this but sometimes you do have to ask or initiate an install – it’s not always automatic.

> Take beautiful, clear images – if you can’t do it yourself, get it done elsewhere.

> Check your site for spelling errors and poor grammar. There are tools for this if you’re spelling and/or syntax challenged. The occasional typo is forgivable, but page after page littered with questionable grammar and misspelled words is a sure sign of lack of care and professionalism. Fix it.

> Post social proof in the form of likes, follows, fans and testimonials.

> Encourage customers to send photos of your work in action.

Sounds like a lot of work, doesn’t it?

No one ever said this would be easy. Nothing worthwhile ever is.

How much work is making what you sell? Or want to sell? How much time do you spend sourcing, cutting, polishing, knotting, wrapping, soldering, pricing, and whatever else you do, before your work is ready to go to its new home? 

Expecting your customers to come to you isn’t realistic. Expecting them to be proactive in asking questions is dreaming. You have to answer every question you can possibly think of first. 

  1. How long/wide/high is it?
  2. How long is the chain? Is it adjustable?
  3. What is it made of?
  4. What is the stone(s)?
  5. What colors(s) does it come in?
  6. What size(s) does it come in?
  7. Where was it made?
  8. Is it hypoallergenic?
  9. How is it packaged?
  10. How much is shipping?
  11. How does it ship?
  12. When will I get it?
  13. Is there a warranty?
  14. What if I don’t like it?

…and a zillion other questions that may be specific to your work or piece.

The more information you give, the better images you supply, the fewer surprises your customers have – and the fewer returns and unhappy people you have to deal with. When you don’t give information, it can sometimes look like there’s something to hide, even when that’s not your intention.


YOU KNOW YOUR WORK. It’s hard to look at it through the lens of someone who doesn’t – and who doesn’t know you either. Is it what you say it is, will it actually arrive, and will you honor your word if there’s a problem? It’s tough to get people to part with their money online. Poor pictures, confusing descriptions and friction in the process only give them a reason to shut down on you. Don’t do that.

Next week we’ll talk about the other part of the equation: TRAFFIC

Need a little support on the journey? Apply for membership to F3, our free online community support group for principals of creative product businesses. Click here for info, and to submit your application.


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