In the internet age, there’s no better way to get the word out about your handmade goods than with an online shop, and if you don’t have the time, resources, or inclination to set up and manage your own website, marketplaces like Etsy are a great way to go. For minimal fees, you can put your goods in front of the thousands of customers who visit Etsy every day, giving you access to a world-wide audience that live craft shows just can’t match. Of course, success isn’t guaranteed, but with a bit of work and a few tips from the pros, Etsy can give your sales a serious lift. Check out these ten artists who’ve made it big on Etsy!
Started by two friends in San Clemente, California, Everfitte combined Amanda’s marketing and business know-how with Rachel’s experience in clothing design to create a line of screen-printed apparel with a focus on fitness. From comfy tanks to cozy hoodies, they offer a wide range of styles and designs to appeal to a broad audience—and encourage repeat customers!
Leilei Secor first started selling her handmade jewelry on Etsy as a way to help pay her college tuition—where she was studying business, of course. For her, the trick to success was constantly learning and adapting. When her first jewelry styles didn’t sell well, she adapted to meet customers’ needs. Finding the right social media platforms to promote her work also took some experimentation; since photos of her jewelry are what makes the sale, highly visual platforms like Instagram worked well, while Facebook’s pay-to-play approach didn’t provide the same reach.
For Erin True, Etsy success was a bit of a happy accident. After getting married and relocating, she wasn’t able to find a new job as an art teacher, and, looking for something creative to fill her time, built a bench out of reclaimed wood. Out of curiosity, Erin put together an Etsy shop and posted the bench to see if other people might be interested in her work. It turns out they definitely were! The uniqueness of her wares let her stand out from other furniture makers or upcycled crafts and continues to attract new customers.
An obsession with planners and all things adorable led Tesia to create her own line of kawaii (which means “cute” in Japanese) embellishment stickers and datebooks. She offers a wide range of DIY planner kits, as well as stickers for every occasion and style sensibility imaginable, plus subscriptions to keep the cuteness coming. For her, the key to success is low cost and high volume: Though each item is inexpensive to customers, they keep coming back for more!
For Nate McPherson and Greg Shelton, it took a second look before they found the value of Etsy for their business. They create unique wedding bands for men, and though they had retail experience, selling online was something new. They created an Etsy store early on, but it remained dormant while they focused on selling the rings in their own brick-and-mortar store. When they finally circled back to Etsy, however, their sales figures skyrocketed. For their high-end product, the internet was the perfect way to tap into an audience that they simply couldn’t reach with a small shopfront.
Fiona Sahaki’s line of adorable kids’ wear started as a hobby that became a full time job and then a company with multiple employees. Her success came as a result of tapping into an audience that she knew very well from personal experience: parents! She designs and creates children’s clothing and accessories that are practical and playful, fun and fancy, and offering a little bit for everyone keeps customers coming back for more.
Scribble Prints is another shop that has tapped into the need to organize and personalize. With inexpensive and attractive stickers to create custom planners, shop-owner Andrea can generate a relatively passive income—since stickers can be mass-produced once they’re designed, she can focus on new offerings to keep customers returning rather than creating each item for customers individually. This keeps costs down and encourages multiple purchases.
Emily McDowell was a successful advertising art director, but when she found her work wasn’t as fulfilling as she’d like, she struck out on her own, drawing on her love of lettering, nature, geometric shapes, and the general quirks of human existence to create cards, posters, mugs, and other products featuring her artwork. Her work has almost universal appeal—in fact, it’s so popular that she has to spend time each week reporting copycat products in other Etsy shops to protect her brand. Since Etsy was instrumental in introducing her work to a large audience, it’s important to maintain that brand integrity, so even though idea-poaching is rife on Etsy, it’s a battle worth fighting.
9. Zoey’s Attic
Zoey’s Attic is the brainchild of former graphic designer Erin Delanty, who started the business after her first child was born and she found herself frustrated by a serious lack of unique children’s clothes on the market. Her goal was to be very customer centered, creating products that were popular and quick sellers. Doing this allowed her to scale the business as it grew, which meant that by the time she needed to add employees to meet the demand, she also had the capital to allow her to do so.
10. Distinctly Ivy
For Ivy Presho, Etsy provided both the inspiration for her product, and the outlet for reaching her customers. Though stamped metal jewelry and accessories are fairly easy to find on Etsy, Ivy sets her work apart by guaranteeing that custom orders ship in one business day. This simple step gives her an edge over her competitors, and by consistently meeting that guarantee, she’s also earned tens of thousands of five-star reviews.
Though setting up an Etsy store is not a guarantee of success, it may be a step in the right direction for your handmade business. Going into the process with a plan, a brand, and the ability to learn as you go (and from the successes and failures of others) will give you the best chance of creating a viable online business. As these Etsy pros have shown, there are many factors that go into creating that business, but there’s no single recipe for success. Your handmade products could easily be the next big thing, and Etsy could be just the platform you need to reach that goal.