Since 2005, Etsy has been enabling creative individuals to place their wares in front of millions of potential buyers and turn their passions into opportunity. Last year alone, Etsy generated an annual revenue of $441.23 million and had nearly 2 million active sellers.
Sounds pretty lucrative for those with a creative mind and products to sell, huh?
The figures speak for themselves, but can you really make a living on Etsy? That’s the burning question we’re here to unravel.
So what’s Etsy’s appeal?
In a nutshell, Etsy’s appeal lies in its simplicity and its popularity. With just a few clicks of a mouse (or touches of a screen for smartphone/tablet users), people can set up an Etsy shop and place their handmade or vintage items in front of millions of buyers (33.4 million at the last count).
That’s a pretty powerful draw when you think about it. Especially when you also consider that Etsy enables individuals to start selling with virtually zero risk compared to if they were going it alone i.e. investing in a domain, website, etc.
However, Etsy’s simplicity and the ease with which someone can create a shop could also be considered as a negative, continue reading to discover why…
What do you consider “a living”?
First and foremost, whether you can make a living on Etsy or not all depends on what you consider “a living” to be. Sure, it’s easy to sell the odd item here and there, but is that really going to pay the bills? Obviously, that depends on your monthly expenses and whatever extracurricular activities you choose to partake in, but we’re guessing however frugal you are, $1,000 a month in sales isn’t going to cut it.
Then again, there are plenty of people out there (me included) who would love to earn an extra chunk of money like that on the side each month.
Although there’s a lot of people that seem to have a lot of sales on Etsy the question is, what kind of money are the top sellers making?
Well, in 2015, Alicia Shaffer, a mother of three from California, received quite a bit of online attention when news broke that she was earning up to $70,000 or $80,000 a month (depends which publications you read) selling her knitted products through her Etsy shop, Three Bird Nest.
Strangely, later that same year, the Three Bird Nest Etsy shop was no more, having been removed from the site indefinitely. Etsy say they removed the site, Three Bird Nest say they jumped ship themselves. Who knows the real story but we would hazard a guess that Three Bird Nest realised how much money they were paying to Etsy for the privilege of sale (Etsy does take a decent commision) and decided to go in-house, it would make sense with sales that large. Whether that worked for them and they get the same revenue without Etsy’s audience is anyone’s guess!
Nevertheless, the story of Three Bird Nest highlights the kind of income that’s possible on Etsy ($960,000 a year) if you are successful.
But remember, competition on Etsy is rife
Now remember we said that Etsy’s simplicity could also be considered a negative point? Because Etsy makes it so simple for pretty much anyone to create a store and start selling products, competition on the platform is rife. 2 million active sellers is a figure that’s only on the increase with multiple new sellers and shops popping up every day.
In other words, to be successful on Etsy, you need to stand out from the crowd and if you are serious about earning a full-time living, your Etsy game needs to be flawless.
Tips for killing it on Etsy
Follow these four tips to boost your chance of Etsy success:
Have genuinely awesome products
Nothing beats having genuinely awesome products that people love. This is pretty much a universal law in the world of eCommerce and isn’t exclusive to Etsy.
Get feedback from friends, family and potential prospects before you jump into selling on Etsy. While you may love the stuff you produce, what really matters is whether other people do.
On Etsy, search engine optimization (SEO) is crucial for achieving maximum reach. For example, things like your item title, description, and tags are all important for helping your products get found.
Try to use relevant, natural keywords in each of these three areas and think about the search terms your target customers might be using on the platform.
Nail your photography
Beautiful product images stand out. While SEO will help people find your items, stunning visuals are what’s going to seal the deal.
The best part is that you don’t need fancy equipment to make your images look amazing. A half-decent smartphone camera can usually take good enough pictures. The key is to make your products look stunning by ensuring they are focused, high resolution and experimenting with different lighting/backgrounds/styling.
Get your pricing right
You have to make a profit on every item you sell if you want to ultimately be successful on Etsy. That’s a given. But how much profit you make on each item can greatly influence your number of sales.
Consider what profit margins you need to make a decent dollar and set your prices accordingly. Don’t forget, you can always change your prices in the future.
Also, be aware that Etsy charges a flat fee of $0.20 per listing and a 5% transaction fee (at time of writing).
Whether you are genuinely looking to make a full-time living or just a little extra at certain times of the year (some seasonal Etsy shops make a killing over the festive period), Etsy could provide a platform on which for you to do so.
Just be aware that it takes a significant amount of work to become successful and Etsy’s strong own identity can also reduce brand loyalty. For example, someone is more likely to say: “I bought this on Etsy” than “I bought this from XYZ Shop on Etsy.” This makes brand loyalty and word of mouth advertising minimal.
The safest route to take is one that sees you dabbling on Etsy to start with and seeing if your products gain traction. If they do, look to ramp things up. If they don’t, consider the reasons why and make adjustments.
Just don’t quit your day job to weave chunky knits for cats straight away.