Do you have a particular hobby or craft that you enjoy like knitting, candle making or painting? Would you like to make some money from that hobby/activity or at least enough to cover your expenses? Then Etsy may be the place for you.
Since 2005, Etsy has offered an e-commerce platform for artists and craftspeople to offer and sell their goods. The only requirement is that those goods must be personally handmade- i.e., no re-selling is allowed. As opposed to bigger sites like Ebay and Amazon, Etsy offers the following advantages to sellers:
Long listing time: Etsy listings last 4 months as opposed to Ebay’s one week time span. This is important because, as an artist or crafter, you need time to build up your fan base. Likewise, many clients buy a small quantity initially and then, if satisfied with the product, come back for more at a later time.
Lower fees: Etsy charges just 20 cents to create a listing and a 3.5% commission for sold items. This is important because many homemade products cost just a few dollars. In contrast, Amazon’s fees can be pretty steep for sellers who are just starting out. A per item fee of 99 cents is applied to any sold item along with a variable closing fee. Amazon also tacks on a referral fee which, for craft items, could run as high as 15%.
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Ebay fees can also be cost-prohibitive; the site waives insertion fees for sellers that are just starting out, but at the close of sale a 9% commission is taken for traditional auction-style listings. Fixed-price listings can result in the seller paying a 50 cent insertion fee and as much as a 13% commission at final sale.
Community: On Etsy, each seller offers a personal and unique set of items that other Etsy sellers and buyers can connect with. There is an opportunity to “admire” (akin to Facebook’s “Like”) a particular Etsy item and to engage the seller in a conversation about his/her items. Furthermore, Etsy offers a Community area where fellow “Etsians” can trade ideas, submit blog posts, participate in events in their geographic areas or post/attend a workshop.
As if this were not enough, Etsy teams such as Handmadeology provide useful tips to fellow Etsians on subjects like item photography, social media marketing and keyword selection.
My personal experience with Etsy
Because of the focused nature of Etsy, it is much easier to sell handmade items here than more populated spots like Ebay or Amazon. I should know: For several years now I have tried to sell handmade jewelry and creams through Ebay and Amazon with limited success. Then, in July of this year, I decided to list some of my homemade deodorants on Etsy.
Almost immediately, I had interested customers writing to me about my products. By September I had sold my first deodorant; by October I had sold my fifth deodorant. I also recently had a “batch” sale of three deodorants in town thanks to an Etsy client referral.
Meanwhile, when I posted these same items through Ebay, no one even viewed my offerings, much less bought them. As a result of my small but growing success in making people less stinky, I am now considering posting a few handmade hand creams and seeing how much interest they generate.
There are some downsides with Etsy too. It does take a while to get your shop to see sufficient traffic; my first product sale didn’t happen until after I’d had my shop up and running for over a month. Part of this has to do with the fact that many merchant Etsy stores look alike and even carry the same (and sometimes plagiarized) content; as a result, they suffer Google search rank penalties.
Also, the site offers limited customization for item listings; storefronts consist of a “sheet” of photos with prices, no more. With Ebay listings, you can do much more in terms of organizing your items and how they are shown in your “store”.
Finally, all Etsy shoppers must register with the site, which can be a hassle if someone just wants to quickly browse through the site on his/her lunch break. This registration requirement may be leading to a shopper “bottleneck”, where many of Etsy’s shoppers are also Etsy sellers.
Alternatives to Etsy
Etsy’s merchant revenues for 2011 were rather impressive, crossing the half billion dollar mark and then some. The company has also expanded into other countries such as France, Germany and Australia. However, there are competitors out there, and some of them don’t even charge for item listings or sales. These competitors include the following:
eCrater This Craigslist-style site allows you to create an online store for free. There are no fees whatsoever associated with selling on this site.
Bonanza This Etsyish site charges no listing fees, with sellers paying only when their items sell. Listings can be posted indefinitely. A live chat function allows sellers and buyers to talk and even haggle over prices in real-time.
With the economy still in a slump, many crafty folks are turning towards sites like Etsy to earn extra money or even make their hobby into a full-time profession. If you are skilled at making some homemade goods, you may want to give this site a try.