Have you ever wondered if anyone actually makes a living selling on Etsy?
For those not in the know, Etsy is an online marketplace for crafters and artists to sell handmade goods and supplies. It allows regular ol’ individuals to create a virtual storefront with a built-in audience to sell artwork, clothing, vintage goods, crafting materials and an unending variety of products.
Etsy is the fifth most frequented online marketplace in the U.S. behind larger companies such as Amazon and Walmart.com. In 2014, the company did $1.93 billion in sales and, as of November 2015, touts upwards of 1.5 million sellers. Of those sellers, 85% are women and 95% run their Etsy shops from home. This accessible format has given many independent crafters the opportunity to put their creative skills to us to make some extra money in their free time or turn it into a fulltime career.
In recent years, Etsy has suffered some scrutiny for changing the small-business style of the site. In 2014, Etsy CEO Chad Dickerson announced that the site would deviate from its business structure by allowing sellers to employ third party manufacturers to help with production. Not only did this compromise the very independent craft nature of the site, it now gave some sellers an advantage by outsourcing work for lower manufacturing costs.
In spite of the controversy, and the mixed feelings of the online marketplace’s members, Etsy continues to grow each year with new sellers and buyers constantly joining. Not only is it expanding, but there are some Etsy crafters who’ve made a killing selling their wares online.
Let’s take a look at some of the top shops and learn some secrets of their success.
THE BLACK APPLE
Artist Emily Winfield Martin started her Etsy shop, The Black Apple, in 2005 after seeing how user-friendly the site was. She had almost instant success. As her beautiful illustrations and artwork quickly spread through blogs, art sites and word of mouth, her sales grew. In just a little over two years, she’d sold 8,500 pieces through the shop and, to date, has sold 54,999 items on Etsy alone.
Emily credits her success with, “Listing frequently, creating new pieces, prices, customer service, packaging….and luck.” (source) She also feels that the fact that her work appeals to a wide audience of different ages and backgrounds has added to her Etsy popularity.
Owner, Brandy Smith opened Zen Threads after closing the doors on a brick-and-mortar boutique, favoring the ease and independence offered by the online marketplace. The shop features screen printed clothing and gifts made with eco-friendly fabrics.
Smith started slowly in her first year on the site, but grew steadily by constantly offering more shirt styles, colors and designs. She also learned SEO and web design to better market her brand. She now runs her Etsy business full time, and says if there’s one lesson she could share with sellers, it’s, “Don’t give up.” (source)
One of the consistently top-selling artists on Etsy is Matt D. of Collage-O-Rama. Chances are good that you’ve seen his work if you’ve ever been anywhere on the Internet. The Seattle-based artist got his start when he experimented with Photoshop and digital art. He created his first popular image in 2003, and eventually opened an Etsy shop in 2009. His work features curious illustrations printed on dictionary pages and includes the now infamous, Dandy Cat.
Much like The Black Apple, Collage-O-Rama’s success is due to it’s large inventory and the relatability of the work. No matter your taste, you can find something in the ever-growing selection of these fun and unique pieces. They’re also priced very affordably, allowing a buyer to add to their art collection without breaking the bank.
THREE BIRD NEST
Until she closed her Etsy shop in 2015, Alicia Shaffer had one of the site’s most successful stores. Three Bird Nest made top seller lists everywhere, with the shop pulling in an average of $80,000 in orders monthly with an annual revenue of $960,000. The online store, which includes clothing and accessories, came under a bit of fire when Shaffer was suspected of outsourcing knitting work to India rather than keeping manufacturing in house. Shaffer does employ a team of full time local seamstresses to keep up with the order demand, and has since offered her items exclusively through her website.
A few tips from one of the top-selling shops?
Follow Etsy advice – There are a ton of videos with ideas to help your shop. Watch them and follow them religiously.
Think like a shopper – When you post an item, ask yourself, “Would I click on this item?” Which leads us to….
Post good quality photos – You took the time to make a sellable item, make sure it shows. Good lighting, staging, and angles are key. There are tons of tutorials with tips for good photos.
Customer service – Respond to people quickly and be polite. Providing good customer service can make or break your shop. (source)
Each of these crafters started somewhere. They each simply decided to use their skills, make a product, and open up an Etsy shop to sell their wares. That’s the great part of the independent marketplace, it’s open for anyone to sell and buy. There’s also a vast library of articles, blogs and videos with tips to make your shop more profitable.
Learn from these start ups, Etsy success is possible.