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Promoting Your Etsy Shop With Alternatives to Contests handmade and vintage goods


Many sellers and Etsy Teams have approached Sarah Feingold, a member of Etsy’s legal counsel, with questions concerning contests. After all, a contest seems like a creative and fun way to publicize your shop or Etsy Team and to get sales. However, there are legal issues to consider when thinking about having a contest. Here’s some news you can use from both sides of this issue.

When you sign up for Etsy, you agree to comply with Etsy’s policies. As Etsy’s Terms of Use state, “You may not use the Etsy service for any illegal or unauthorized purpose. Users agree to comply with all local laws regarding online conduct and acceptable content.” If you have a contest, it must comply with Etsy’s policies and other laws, and there must be no risk of confusion as to whether Etsy is sponsoring or affiliated with the contest.

Contest law is complex. For example, to hold a contest you must consider tax issues, illegal lottery issues and international issues. In general, anyone who has an online contest must follow certain rules about disclosures, methods for picking a winner, mailing options, no purchase necessary requirements, bond requirements (in some states) and the list goes on and on and on. Just to make matters more confusing, contest law varies from state to state and from country to country. So if you want to have a contest just in the United States, you must comply with every state’s laws. Woah! In fact, contest law is so complex that some attorneys even specialize in this topic. (Here’s an interesting article on the topic from How Stuff Works.)

So now you may be thinking, “Gee, that sounds legal, complex, annoying and maybe expensive! But seriously, do I have to follow these laws? I’m just holding a tiny promo contest!” Well, that’s up for you to think about and to discuss with your lawyer. For questions about contest law, what to include in rules and regulations or other issues please consult an attorney.

What sorts of things can your Etsy Team do without having to worry having to wrestle the strong arm of the law? Sara Selepouchin,  Etsy Teams coordinator, has several great non-contest alternatives for promoting your shop or Etsy Team below.

Collaborative Specials

One of the perks of being on a Team is power in numbers. A single Etsy shop running a sale might not garner much attention, but many shops very publicly holding a well-coordinated sale have the potential to be eye-catching and to collectively bring in many more shoppers. To coordinate such an event, pick a theme for the sale, such as a holiday, the changing of the seasons or something your Team wants to celebrate. I’ve seen Etsy Teams make eye-catching graphics to brand the event, where each participating Etsy shop will include the graphics as part of their avatar or shop banner.  This is a great way to indicate to other Etsy sellers in the Forums, for example, that something is going on without the trying task of keeping a promotion thread afloat. Each Team member should promote the sale in a venue outside of Etsy, such as in another forum or through their mailing list. That way the audience you’ll reach is much larger. Participating shops can include a notice in the shop announcement, along with a list of other participating sellers, and potentially generate a lot of browsing around the shops of everyone on the Team.  Get creative about how to make your sale stand out.

Get People Looking

A fun and clever ways to get people clicking through your shop is great! You might achieve this through an online scavenger hunt through item descriptions, where a buyer can redeem a discount or free shipping in the participating shops by typing in a correct clue or answer in the Note to Seller.  Or, if a buyer purchases an item from two participating Etsy shops, perhaps they receive a free gift (along the lines of a “buy one, get one free” promotion) from the participating sellers or a discount on their next purchase from a fellow Team member. These are just examples, and there are many incentives you can dream up to get people into your shop.

Do Something Press-Worthy

What about activities or events that aren’t grounded in consumerism?  Etsy Teams are wonderful groups of people, with many diverse backgrounds and interests from all around the world.  It really catches our eye when a Team does a project that merits some press.  The Connecticut Etsy Team  once sent out press releases about their Team and as a result, a local morning news show aired a segment featuring local sellers making baby shoes. From a reporting perspective, this is much more newsworthy than a regular sale. A project that creates interest to the general public is a great way to raise awareness of your Etsy Team.  The Florida Etsy Team created handmade Valentine’s for the elderly to distribute at local retirement homes.  It was such a sweet project, that I’ve mentioned it to several people since, giving the Team some free word of mouth promotion. Projects that make people talk about your Team are priceless.

We love the Etsy Teams, they’re such a pillar of the Etsy Community. While we have to require that all Etsy users are abiding by their local laws, we don’t want you to feel like your hands are tied when it comes to attracting buyers and promoting yourselves. There are many different types of events and promotions your Etsy Team can put together to get the word out.  Have your own ideas about good and legal ways to promote your Team? Tell us about them in the comments!

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Sarah Feingold is Etsy's in-house attorney. She is also a jeweler with an extreme sweet tooth.