How Etsy’s Horrendous Seller App Made Me Have an Epiphany About Perfectionism Paralysis

The app was the worst thing to happen to my phone since that U2 album that showed up with nobody’s consent, but it made me realize something about creative and entrepreneurial risk.

Rachel Presser
7 min readFeb 26, 2024
This is an actual exchange I had with Etsy Seller Support after I lost count of how many listing drafts self-destructed in one of the most abysmally-designed apps I’ve ever used.

So, I guess I need to open this piece with an utterly shameless plug for my Etsy store chock full of reptile-themed art and jewelry, Varanid Paradise!

I opened the shop in 2022 when I was building a new life in LA, and started painting giant lizards for the hell of it. I branched into different styles, started making cabochon jewelry with my paint peelies, then took it to a whole new level with over the top dragon bib necklaces inspired by the maximalist ones I always saw in photos of 80s goth clubs.

Created and photographed by me, both necklaces are still available in my Etsy shop at the time of posting

Anyway, as I’ve spent the last few months culling some income streams that wound up being dead ends and conjuring new ones, this e-commerce journey I hadn’t initially set out for wound up teaching me things.

And I don’t mean in the “focus on listing SEO instead of ads” way, or the never-ending quandary of not knowing how much to charge for various pieces. No, something deeper that can’t be quantified on an analytics dashboard.

The utterly godawful user experience of the Etsy seller app made me have an epiphany about that fear we have in putting something out there and that it won’t be good enough.

Perfectionism paralysis is a common bug of ADHD, and something unwittingly forced onto women and other marginalized people.

It can make us put off releasing anything for years out of fear that it isn’t good enough. After all, women creators get held to ridiculous standards for half the reward if we’re lucky.

Perfectionism paralysis holds us back in so many ways. Sometimes even from creating altogether! It doesn’t give us room to experiment, troubleshoot, and grow. And sometimes, you just gotta tell that inner critic fueled by the reality of higher external expectations to fuck off.

And of all the things that made me break free from the hold that perfectionism paralysis has had on me my entire life, it was the inexorably godawful user experience of the very vehicle for selling my maximalist reptile jewelry.

Take a long, hard look at what you’re creating with the resources available to you.

The resources aren’t just the obvious ones like money, extra hands on deck, distribution help, and reputation. It’s also in your personal life.

An indie game developer can’t be held to the same standard as a AAA studio. The latter’s meals and entertainment budget is twice what the former could make 2–3 full-length games with.

A single entrepreneur who lives alone and has severe ADHD can’t be held to the same standard as a married neurotypical.

Got it?

Bear that in mind if you’re feeling insecure about your own product, creation, or mission. First, you can’t judge your own work by what more established creators and companies put out. One company’s poor performance is another’s goal of livable, sustainable income.

And it might not be the end result that’s the issue, but that you’re not finding the right audience or venue for it: social media is saturated and you’re more likely to have your mutuals on a platform like Bluesky or Twitter buy from you than a stranger on Instagram. If venturing in r/artbusiness has taught me anything, it’s that having a big account on IG and taking laborious videos of your creative process doesn’t always translate to sales. Meantime, artists with barely any online presence are selling their entire collections at live shows or getting representation from art brokers.

Get out there in some way. Whether it’s through online means or live.

When I first gave boothing at events a try, I had painful losses at Reptile Super Show and Odd Market. I didn’t sell a single thing at Odd Market, and found it wasn’t even that “odd” despite the name! I sold a few paintings at Reptile Super Show and got endless compliments on my work, but I also got useful feedback that lower-priced prints, stickers, smaller paintings, and jewelry would be easier to sell than $100–300 paintings.

These shows were expensive and fatigue-inducing lessons that I definitely wish would’ve gone differently. But I’m glad I had them, and feel more confident about my next reptile show. I also put a lot of effort into my displays and booth presence, but I’m also going at this entirely alone and can’t be judged by the same standard as creators who have a better support network than I do.

Now, what’s this about Etsy’s horrible UX?

If you’re an Etsy seller, then their shitty app needs no introduction. But assuming that the person reading this is unfamiliar, here goes.

About 25% of the functions I’d like to use, such as making quick edits to the actual storefront, literally prompt me to use a computer instead.

What is even the point of having a dedicated front-end if you’re going to tell the user to use a computer for something as simple as uploading a few photos to the About page?

You can’t even get around this by using the mobile web version, which is just as broken as the app. I had to send my photos to myself and upload them manually on my PC like it was 2014.

The app predominantly serves as a listing manager and listing creation tool, rather than one that gives you more holistic management of your entire seller account. It’s called the seller app, not the listing manager app.

And it can’t even do THAT right half the time.

Comparing this to my 20-ish years on eBay, you can type a period in a listing template or new listing form and eBay will save a draft. Etsy doesn’t let you save drafts unless you have certain fields filled out, which defeats the purpose of saving a draft!

I have to keep my listing copy in a Notepad document so that in case the damn listing just doesn’t feel like saving itself, I don’t lose all the copy I wrote. Interestingly, the Etsy seller app also lets you paste line breaks, but you can’t make them if you’re writing them in-app.

Buyers don’t want to be inundated by a wall of text! Come on, you don’t even need SEO and e-commerce experience to know this!

Oh, and this is how I discovered that copying an existing listing to list a new but similar item is pointless. Because you have to manually delete all the old copy and change the attribute you want to change with a 50% chance it’ll self-destruct by refusing to save changes. So whenever I have a new piece to sell, I have to create a new listing EVERY single time.

If I released a game this broken, I’d rightfully get torn a new one in the Steam and App Store reviews.

After I yelled at my phone the umpteenth time after another self-destruct, fortunately after I drafted the copy in Notepad first, something dawned on me. A publicly-traded company that has god knows how many app developers and UX researchers on staff refuses to give basic functionality to the people who actually create inventory for them to sell.

Whether it’s in my art, indie games, my writing, or virtually everything else I’ve done in my life: I’d never intentionally release something this shitty and insist it’s making the user’s life better when it’s doing the opposite.

If this massive company backed by venture capital and god knows how many engineers put out something this dysfunctional, and didn’t even make any attempts to fix it before the holiday season to the point countless sellers were impacted?

I promise that your imperfect art, essay, game, or business idea will not be nearly as bad and you’ll actually take customer and prospect feedback into account.

I initially wanted to hold off on revamping Varanid Paradise until I had stickers ready, but I went full speed ahead and figured that drawing some reptile or amphibian on the packing slip is fine.

It’s okay that I didn’t have promotional stickers ready, and that I had several pieces I wanted to finish but was missing some component or another. IT’S OKAY. Buyers loved their pieces and the packing slips were a great opportunity to improve my lizard sketching skills! What mattered was that the art I sent was properly varnished or that the jewelry was structurally sound.

Unlike the Etsy seller app, which makes something that could and should be simple into an endeavor as difficult as picking roach shit out of coffee grounds.

Nonetheless, I’ve stopped worrying about whether everything is 100% perfect. Because I’d never try to ship something as horrifically broken that gives such a middle finger to its end users as the Etsy seller app, which has no excuse to be such a portrait of enshittification given their boundless resources comparable to indie creators and small entrepreneurs.



Rachel Presser

Game dev, writer, small biz & tax consultant to indie devs. That loud socialist Frog Slut from The Bronx, now in Angel City.