Woman relaxing near the pool

It’s that time of year.  Summer is upon us.  You’re probably thinking, I own my own business.  I can take vacation whenever I’d like.  I’ll just put my shop in Etsy vacation mode and go catch some sun.

If only it was that simple.  Etsy vacation mode seems like a wonderful tool from afar.  It let’s you put your shop on hold so buyers can’t purchase from you and you can catch some rays.

But have you ever thought what really happens when you put your Etsy shop in vacation mode? 

The truth is that when you put your shop in Etsy vacation mode, your products stop showing up in the search engine.

Some of you might be thinking, so what? 

If you’ve been open awhile and your product is popular, most likely it’s because you’ve worked hard to rank higher in the search results.  This means that when a potential customer searches for certain keywords, your item comes up.  Usually on the first page if you’ve done your work right.

But if you put your shop in Etsy vacation mode, you stop coming up in search results.  You don’t come up at all.  Suddenly no one knows about you or your amazing product.  You’re no longer even an option to be considered.

Etsy is up front about this, kind of.  If you look at the vacation mode pointers above, the fifth one down mentions that you won’t be in search any more.

Unfortunately, Etsy doesn’t really disclose what will happen when you reopen your shop after vacation.  Although it seems to depend on how long you were away, most people report that their shops aren’t exactly the same as when they left.  The items are still there and your branding.  But your traffic is gone.  And doesn’t come back that quickly.  

What Etsy doesn’t mention is that when you put your shop in Etsy vacation mode, you negatively impact your shop sales and earnings.  And the longer you have your shop in Etsy vacation mode, the worse it gets.

Through my research, I found traffic of other shops dropping between 60 and 80%.  And remember, no traffic equals no sales.

One Etsy shop owner even discovered that if you have your shop closed for longer than 30 days, it is like starting completely over.

Think back to those first 4 to 6 months of your Etsy shop.  You probably heard a lot of crickets before sales picked up.  That’s what a lot of Etsy shop owners are hearing when they reopen their shops after their vacation.  And some aren’t seeing a recovery – at least for a number of months.

Turquoise suitcase with travel needs and the text overlay "Going on vacation?  Ways to manage your Etsy shop during your break"

What you Can Do Instead

To be honest, I’ve never actually put my shop in Etsy vacation mode.  After reading some of the things that have happened to others’ shops, it wasn’t worth the risk to me.

But don’t worry, it doesn’t mean that we don’t travel.  We love going on vacation.  I’ve just had to get creative with how I manage my stationery shop when I’m away.  Here are some ideas to do instead.

Change your Processing Times

I run a shop with digital and handmade goods.  I used to have our processing times in each listing description.  Although I know this helped customers know right away how long it would take me to get their product to them, it was really hard to change when I went on vacation, traveled to a conference or just got busy with life.  (With hundreds of listings, updating just one detail in the product listing quickly is almost impossible.)

I removed the information from the product listings and replaced it with “Check our Shop Announcements for Current Processing Times”.

Customers now have a central location to find the most accurate information for how long their products will take to ship.

Now, Etsy still makes you put the processing time directly in your listing.  It appears on the right hand side.  I still override this time with my disclosure in the listing.  There is no easy way to change all of your processing times at once and with thousands of items, changing it individually each time we decide to take a trip is out of the question.

Another option is to choose “Unknown” for the processing time.  I’ve never tried this, so I’m not sure if this will have a negative impact on sales.  But might be an option if you want to vary your processing times based on your travel schedule.

I’ve found by putting this information in your Shop Announcements section, it’s easier to manage my Etsy Shop.  When the order turn around information changes, you can just update this one location.  My customers know to look in this section for the most recent processing times.

Add a Message to Buyers

It is true.  Not everyone takes the time to read your Shop Announcements page.

I also put our updated processing times and that our studio is currently closed in my Message to Buyers.

You can edit this message in the Info and Appearance section under Shop Settings.  Let customers know that your shop will be closed until a specific date and when you will start processing orders again.

I also always offer them a refund if this processing time doesn’t work with their needs.  I’ve only had a few customers take me up on it over the years, but at least it’s an option.  I would never want a customer to feel stuck with continuing their order when they wanted something faster.  Especially since I am in the time sensitive event industry.

Announce on Social Media

If many of your customers come from your social media followings, announce that your shop will be closed on your different social media accounts.

Let customers know when you will be reopened and accepting orders again.  Although not everyone will read your message, many potential buyers will.

It’s a great way to share this information quickly and let customers know to get their orders in before you close.  You can also use your social media to announce when you’ve reopened for business.

Create a Blog Announcement

If you’re driving traffic correctly, many of your customers will be coming from your blog.  Add an announcement to your blog about your shop’s vacation plans.

You can add the announcement to your blog’s slider or the top of your webpage.  You could also write a blog post about your shop’s vacation plans, so it’s the first item that customers see when they go to your website.

Now, I don’t recommend disclosing too much personal information about your trip.  You can share more when you return.  Just let your audience know that you won’t be taking orders for a time.  They don’t have to know the specifics of why.  Only share the information you’re comfortable with.

Seashells on the beach with the text overlay "Ready for a vacation?  Alternatives to Etsy Vacation Mode"

Choose a Quieter Time

Not all vacations can be planned.  Life happens.  But if you have a choice on when to go on vacation, select a time when your shop receives fewer orders to go.

How do you know when the best vacation time is?

If you’ve been in business for a couple of years, you can look at your sales data to see when your shop’s busy seasons are.  Although this may vary depending on the products you offer, many times there’s a pattern on when your quiet times are.

For our shop it’s late July and early August.  Most people are back to planning fall parties in mid-August.  So, I try to take our vacations in this window. There’s a lot fewer customers and I don’t feel like I miss out on that many sales.

Hire an Assistant

Just like you might have a pet sitter while you’re on vacation, if your shop is big enough, consider hiring a “shop sitter”.  This person would fill orders while you are gone so you don’t have to close your shop down.

In reality, this might not be a cost effective option.  I know it isn’t for my shop.  But it is a choice.

Check with your local entrepreneur and female business groups to see if there’s someone who knows how Etsy works and would be willing to help out.  You might even choose just one or two days during the time away to get orders in the mail.

If you choose someone to help you, even just temporarily, be sure to disclose this person as a “Shop Member”.  You want to make sure you follow all of Etsy’s policies to avoid your shop getting flagged.

Decide how Involved you Want to Be

Right after I opened my online shop in 2012, we took our first family vacation.  I had a feeling it might be awhile before I got to take another one (I was kind of right, but for other reasons).

There were very few orders at the time, so it was easy to leave the shop.

Today, I have to think hard about when to take our vacations each year.  Between our family’s school and work schedules, it’s hard to decide the best time to be away.

Over the years, the amount of involvement with my shop has varied based on our trips.  In the early years of family vacations, our littles still napped.  I knew that I had a couple hours each afternoon without missing out on family time.  I would answer questions and complete digital orders.

Other years, I’ve completely removed myself from the shop during our vacation time.  I just needed a break.

Before taking your vacation, make sure that you decide how involved you want to be.

Which shop functions will you continue to do over vacation?

Are you willing to answer customer questions, refund orders, complete proofs or send digital files?  Or do you want nothing to do with your shop?

And be firm.  I ALWAYS have a customer who contacts me with a major design request the day before I leave on vacation.  And this person is always very insistent that I take their order.

One year I did.  Instead of packing, I was up for hours creating a custom color change on these files.  From then on, I said “Never Again!”.  I like to be relaxed before leaving on vacation.  Doing this order last minute was not worth it.

Announce Early

It wasn’t until recently that I realized my repeat customers browse my shop weeks before their events waiting to buy.  They also don’t really pay much attention to Announcements.

When planning to go on vacation, don’t catch anyone by surprise.  Announce that your shop will be closed at least a few days ahead of time.  I stop taking new orders at least two days ahead for digital and longer for handcrafted.  I want to make sure that I can complete the orders in plenty of time before I close. 

Most of your customers will be understanding.  And many will rush to order.  So your sales might even go up during this time.  Yeah!

Consider Selling Digital Designs

So, the biggest secret I’ve learned to get around using Etsy Vacation mode is to create digital products.  Now, this isn’t possible to every creative niche.  But, as I explained here, one of the best ways to create multiple income streams for your business is through digital products.

Knowing that my family and I love to travel, I started putting more digital designs into my shop.  I added lots of instant download and edit yourself designs this past year.  

When I go on vacation now, I deactivate all of my listings that aren’t digital designs.  That way I can still sell something – the digital products – that doesn’t involve me working directly on their order.

Now, a disclosure about this strategy.  Even digital design orders result in questions.  So, don’t plan on just leaving your shop and letting the money roll in.  Studies have shown that XX percentage of the orders will have questions.

I always set aside an hour a day just to double check my Conversations and make sure no one is having any issues.  It’s not completely passive, but it’s the best way I’ve found to make money even when I’m on the go.  

Other Things to Consider when Putting your Shop in Etsy Vacation Mode

Everyone needs a vacation and you may believe that using Etsy Vacation Mode is the only way to take one.  You might be right.

Unless your shop is completely shut down, customers will still contact you, you might have to process a refund or two and you won’t truly be able to step away.

Here are some other things to consider before making your decision about putting your shop in Etsy vacation mode.

How long will you be away?

Results have shown that the longer you are away, the more negatively your Etsy shop will be impacted in Etsy Vacation Mode.  A few days doesn’t seem to have a huge effect on your shop’s status, but weeks to months is a huge step backward.

Consider how long you plan to be traveling before deciding if it’s a good decision.  A short weekend jaunt might not be a big deal.

Can you manage the orders when you return?

As wonderful as it is continuing to process orders when I’m on vacation, they do pile up after awhile.  Sometimes I spend an entire week after I’ve reopened just processing the orders that came in.

Depending on your scheduling needs when you return, make sure that you have the time to process the orders that do come in.  If not, it might be best to not receive them while you’re away.

Will it matter financially?

Some Etsy shops are just in their first stages of development.  Putting your Etsy shop in vacation mode might not matter to your placement in search results or your business finances (especially if you aren’t making much money and don’t rely on your earnings yet).

If you can afford to put your shop in vacation mode – both with rankings and covering your monthly expenses – then maybe it’s a good idea.  You might not be making enough of a profit yet to worry about a couple of missed sales.

Do you need a break?

I ask myself this question every year.  If you choose not to put your shop in Etsy vacation mode, your shop is still running.  You still have to manage a daily to do list – the good and the bad – even if it’s a bit abbreviated.

For the last couple of years, I’ve decided that staying open isn’t worth the hassle.  I need a break for the good of my mental health and the joy of making family memories.

A good vacation also sparks my creativity in a whole new way.  I’m rejuvenated to run my shop when I return and usually end up creating some of my best designs in the months following.

If you feel that you’re at your breaking point, just close your shop for vacation.  You’ll be more relaxed when you return and ready to keep on growing.

Is there good Internet connection?

I know this might seem like a silly question to ask, but some of you take amazing vacations to remote locations.  Before thinking that you can run your shop remotely, make sure that you have a good Internet connection.

Check with your hotel, Air BNB or cabin.  If you plan on spending a week hiking in the woods, continuing to run your Etsy shop probably isn’t the best choice.

If the Internet connection seems a bit spotty and you want to continue running your Etsy shop, consider getting a hot spot to plug into your computer.  It’s a great way to stay connected even without solid Internet.

Final Thoughts…

The truth is that everyone needs a vacation.  Even the toughest entrepreneurs need a break eventually.  How you choose to take that break depends on a lot of factors and your comfort level.

Although Etsy Vacation mode might look enticing on the surface, there are lots of other things that you can do to prepare to take a vacation with an Etsy shop.  

When deciding how to proceed, think about how a potential traffic drop would affect your shop.  Weigh each option and see what works best for your shop and family situation.

But no matter what, go on the vacation.  You deserve it.  Make the memories with your family and enjoy yourself.  Your Etsy shop will be ready for you to grow even more when you return… relaxed.


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