I’ve danced around Etsy for several years. As a fine artist, I’m not quite ready to sell my paintings for as low as I think I would need to in order to make a lot of money of Etsy. However, even in that regard I’m probably wrong, because I spend far more on shows and galleries than I would setting up my online profile, so I will probably try it out when I have the time and see how well fine art/paintings sell on Etsy.
The beauty of Etsy is that it makes it really easy for anyone to sell handcrafted, one-of-a-kind, cool little things that seem to defy categorization. If you’re looking for a unique gift, something special and personalized, Etsy is your window into the homes of thousands of artisans who will often make custom articles just for you.
But Etsy is also brilliant because it allows artisans and craftspeople an outlet to sell the work they want to do, at prices much higher than they normally could.
Example: If you go to a craftsfair, even if your work is unique, the majority of people browsing aren’t looking for anything in particular, and they probably won’t spend much. They may buy one or two items, but that puts you in direct competition with everybody else at the fair, and there will probably be a few hundred visitors.
But on Etsy: You can create something amazing and just leave it there. Hundreds of thousands of people – many searching exactly for something like it – will see it. If someone likes it and wants it enough, the price is not the issue. They will buy it at any cost, because they can’t get it anywhere else.
How to make money on Etsy
Just as in every other artistic and creative field, there are two routes to profiting on Etsy.
1) The high road: Pour your soul into something unique and cute and 1 of a kind, never been done before. It may become a trend, a fad. You can charge whatever you want. To make this work, it needs to be something you can create a lot of, and make them all different.
2) The low road: Make what sells. Find out what sells the best, what’s popular on Etsy, and make something similar but unique. Price similarly (or a little lower at the beginning).
“High” and “Low” are not the right adjectives at all, actually you will probably evolve from “Low” to “High” as you find out what works. (The same steps will apply to writing books, making businesses, etc.)
As a case study, let me introduce my mother, Dana Murphy (Etsy Link). Very successful with handpainted clothing years ago, she began a career as a teacher and is recently retired – allowing her to get back into crafts. She started out on Etsy with handpainted clothes, but then started making grow charts. She was selling, but the work took a long time and many people wanted meticulous custom details. For the low prices she was charging (under $50) she was spending too much time on each order.
Browsing Etsy, she saw some neat skirts and clothing made out of recycled sweaters, so she made some. They sold. She made some more, and they sold too. Since they were obviously popular, she began to spend more time making them, instead of her other products. Since they sold quickly, she raised her prices.
After only a few months, with no social presence whatsoever and a very basic website, she is making several hundred a month and shipping orders all over the world. It won’t take long for her to break $1000/month once she tweaks her process of goods-creation, gets faster with practice, and raises her prices a little. ($1000/month is my recommended target income – once you learn to make $1000, it’s pretty easy to raise that bar higher).
How to decide what to sell on Etsy
The first step in making money with Etsy, is to experiment with what kind of things you can make, and make a lot of different things. See what sells the fastest. See what’s the easiest, and what you enjoy making.
Once you’ve found a product that seems to sell the best, focus on that product. Make each article unique and different, but create a “line” or “collection”. Find ways of making them different and better than what your competitors are selling.
Keep it up for a few months and you will discover you’re now really good at making this product, and you can do it cheaply and easily, and you can sell it for a sizable chunk of money.
Pricing, packaging and shipping
To begin with, look at your competition or similar products, and try to do it for $10 to $20 less. All things considered, some people will choose the cheaper version, and you’ll get some experience selling. In the beginning, getting experience and feedback is more important than making money. But once you have a unique product that people seem to really like, and it’s selling quickly, by all means raise prices. Etsy prices are stiff – it’s common to find small handmade products for over $50. I once bought 2 or 3 plushie Harry Potter dolls on a whim for about $40 each (I’d never spend anything like that in a store for something I needed so little).
Personally, I’d try to make $20 an hour, plus materials and shipping.
So if something costs $5 to make and 2 hours of time, and the shipping is $10, you would need to charge $55. But this is just a starting point. You’re the boss. If your work is in demand, raise prices. If you’re busy and have been busy for a few months, raise the price in $10 increments, gauge new sales levels, and re-evaluate. Keep raising prices until you find a comfortable balance between income and the amount of work you are doing. (Raising prices also allows you to offer special discounts and offers, which can drive sales).
Etsy success is also about personalization, and charmingly small details. Spend time on your packaging. Use special boxes or envelopes. Include a personal note or card, on beautiful paper. A business card, a coupon for a future purchase, an inspirational quote… think of how you can make receiving your package more pleasure-ful.
This is part of your ‘branding’ and will reflect well on you in rave comments. Overwhelm your customers and they will happily promote you.
Etsy makes it easy to calculate shipping and you can even print shipping labels.
Go get started!
PS) Feel free to link to your Etsy page in the comments!